#Stand with Heather!

I stand with Heather.

Dr Heather Brunskell-Evans is a public intellectual, an incisive and persuasive speaker, an energetic campaigner, and a passionate feminist. I have heard her speak, and also met her more informally, where I found her warm and funny. She campaigns on porn culture, and I entirely agree. She supports the Nordic model of sex work law (which has inspired the law in France and increasing numbers of jurisdictions). On that I am unsure, but clear she has important things to say and is worth hearing, as she has researched the arguments. And she does not like being called a TERF- perhaps a gender-critical feminist, radical feminist or just feminist.

She appeared on The Moral Maze on Radio 4, where she expressed concern about teenage girls transitioning to trans men. She is the spokesperson for the Women’s Equality Party policy on sexual violence against women and girls. A complaint has been made that she contradicts the party’s position on trans women, which accepts our self-determination as women.

The party has 65,000 members, as of July 2016, and while it has no elected councillors has won thousands of votes in various elections. It stands for equal pay, equal treatment in the media, and an end to violence against women. It will have difficulty while the UK parliament and local councils operate first past the post electoral system but it has value as a campaigning organisation; and it cannot be expected to enforce cabinet responsibility, with no spokesperson ever contradicting party policy, at such an early date in its existence.

That is, I want WE to flourish, and have the passion, skills and experience of Dr Brunskell-Evans, and I want her to be able to speak her understanding and campaign as she wishes- even though I do not agree with her. She does not like the word TERF, but when she says we should not be in women’s space it feels exclusionary to me. It is a bodge, I suppose. There are many people I will never persuade that I am really a woman, but I hope to persuade them that I am mostly harmless. Rape Crisis Scotland, which works against violence against women and girls, says We do not regard trans equality and women’s equality to be in competition or contradiction with each other. I can bear Dr Brunskell-Evans’s disagreement.

Twitter is not the place for nuanced argument. There, there is a campaign with the hashtag #standwithheather. “You are being anti-feminist and cowardly”, one tweets at WE. No, they are not, they are being practical and reasonable, allowing her to say things which other members contradict. Their own twitter stream is tweeting about toilets- not trans women in women’s toilets, but the impact of a lack of toilets on women’s health and dignity globally. They mark International Men’s Day by showing the men who have joined- for women’s equality benefits everyone. “They should be ashamed of themselves and their pitiful attempt at male pandering feminism”, thunders Quelizinha. Transgender Trend suggests WE is giving into bullies. “RemakingAdam” is obsessively tweeting again and again, claiming hundreds of women are leaving the party.

The Women’s Equality Party, like most feminists, supports trans women. That is the progressive cause. We subvert gender. We are an oppressed minority, and we need the support of society: we transition because we must, and we do so in far more dangerous conditions than in Britain. They could take a “gender critical” line, and escape censure from the likes of @Janice5E, who gloats that “@WEP_UK have had a lot of practice at losing women. Sophie Walker (@SophieRunning) made a complete arse of the party on Mumsnet…” Such people, though, tend to be only interested in one feminist cause, devoting a great deal of energy to excluding trans women. I wish they would take that energy somewhere else.

Because all we know about the WEP position is that complaints have been made, and they are investigating. Here are their statements. The paranoid response on Twitter only damages the tweeters’ own cause. No-one has threatened Heather’s expulsion from the party. The tweetstorm damages the cause of feminism.

Accepting Ourselves

The NHS and professional bodies are committed to ending the practice of conversion therapy in the UK. With “gay cures” it is clear that means attempts to make a gay person attracted to the opposite sex or not attracted to their own sex, but what does it mean for trans folk?

We self-diagnose. No-one goes to a doctor with a set of symptoms and is surprised to be told they have gender dysphoria: if you know of anyone, please tell me. We have contacted people in the community and reached an understanding of what we want. Possibly we have got hormones off the internet, or already transitioned.

Gay identity can be liberated. Battered down by the homophobia pervading society, a person can actualise their fully functioning human identity by therapy, accepting their attractions, using them to build relationship and community, and getting sexual release without shame. The whole person is good, right and acceptable. Self-acceptance empowers them to fulfil their goals and share their gifts in society.

Trans identity comes from a feeling of not fitting, not being congruent. My being, my personality, character, real me, inner self, conflicted and oppressed through internalised transphobia, are nevertheless right and beautiful and can be liberated by good psychotherapy working with my intense desire to know the truth, my human capacity for growth and healing, and my Love. But that misses out my body.

Bodies are embarrassing. We cover them with clothes, not just for warmth. They do embarrassing things like belch, fart, excrete, menstruate. They get sore and tired. We want them to be other than they are, so diet and exercise to change them, rather than for the joy of it. Encouraged by the culture, we imagine an ideal body and always feel we fall short of it.

My body is beautiful.
My body is acceptable.
My body is full of potential.

I can develop it, but should be careful when I imagine I should constrain it, and only do that for good reason. Here is Walt Whitman, section 20 of Song of Myself, worth glorying in for its shocking Acceptance:

I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.

In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn less,
And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them.

I know I am solid and sound,
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow,
All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.

I know I am deathless,
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter’s compass,
I know I shall not pass like a child’s carlacue cut with a burnt stick at night.

I know I am august,
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood,
I see that the elementary laws never apologize,
(I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by, after all.)

I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is my- self,
And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.

My foothold is tenon’d and mortis’d in granite,
I laugh at what you call dissolution,
And I know the amplitude of time.

Is that not glorious? Read it again, breathe, glory in it. This- this creature, body, mind, spirit, brain, thews and sinews, questing intelligence, empathy, Love- is completely and entirely beautiful. My body is beautiful.

I only realised my body is beautiful after transition. My arm is beautiful: rounded, long and slim and strong enough, with a lovely, dextrous hand, and before transition I saw it as thin, weak and unmanly.

Something does not fit. What is it? There are three alternatives:

  • The soft, gentle, empathetic spirit
  • The body, with penis and testicles, precisely the size it is
  • The cultural understanding that a man should be like this and a woman should be like that.

We take into ourselves that cultural concept. First I tried to make a man of myself, to fit that concept, and then when I began to accept my spirit as it is I transitioned, so I could be that spirit-self and at the same time conform to the cultural understanding. My presentation, as a man, dressed as a man, did not fit, so I changed it; my body, with a man’s facial and body hair, penis and testicles, did not fit, so I changed that too.

The NHS wants to end conversion therapy, but what would preventing conversion therapy look like, when the culture does such a brilliant job of convincing us that we are wrong, inadequate, not as we ought to be? It gives us two courses, both of which involve converting us to fit in: make a man of yourself, or alter your body and express female. We start therapy converted, not accepting ourselves. Therapy addresses the mind, and helps us accept our spirit, but does not address the cultural rejection of the body. Unless  therapists take into account the conversion wrought by the culture, and oppose it, they are complicit with it. All of me is acceptable, just as it is, body as well as spirit.

The problem for me is that I don’t know if I could convince my 35 year old self, committed to transition, believing that was the way to accept and liberate my feminine self, and to give a clear impression of who I am so that others can interact comfortably with me and I with them. Clothes are so much of how you signal who you are. I always knew that I might be trying to live as a man five years after, but I had to get there via transition.

To accept my spirit, I had to transition, and spend years on it. I could accept my body if I saw it as female. I still best get a handle on my personality if I conceptualise it as “feminine”.  To accept my spirit and body together without transition might have been too much for me.

Changing gender

Who would want a gender recognition certificate, anyway?

I did. I was more or less OK with the law calling me a “man”. I had a passport and driving licence which indicated I am a woman. I was not thinking of marriage or civil partnership. But when the law offered the chance to be declared a “woman”, I wanted it. I can’t think of any way it affects my legal rights. It makes me almost certain to go to a women’s prison if imprisoned, but I have not committed that sort of offence.

Should someone with a penis be sent to a women’s prison? It is a grey area. Whichever prison we go to, we are going to have a tough time. In the cause of protecting themselves against us, people are violent towards us. If a trans woman has committed a violent crime, she is capable of violence; and if she has transitioned before she was charged, and wants to go there, I would send her to a women’s prison. If she were violent or threatening there, I would subject her to prison discipline- though that requires a sufficient number of prison officers.

Now, under the gender recognition act, I needed to show I had lived as a woman for two years, which I proved with wage slips, and I needed to show I was likely to live as a woman for the rest of my life. The evidence required for that was letters from two doctors, one on an approved list of specialists. I am not faking this, or trying to prove a point. I am sincere. This is my life.

Under the consultation, which has not yet opened, Proposals to streamline and de-medicalise the process for changing gender will be part of a broad consultation of the legal system that underpins gender transition.

Why should I need a doctor’s diagnosis? Why should I need any written evidence beyond my bare assertion that I am a trans woman, and I intend to live as a woman for the rest of my life? To stop anyone getting a GRC insincerely, and to protect others from us, if we might harm them. Provisions on evidence and length of time have to be justified, but can be if a good case can be made that people would be harmed.

There might be policy on trans women in women’s prisons. Any restriction is subject to Human Rights challenges. I tend to feel we should be placed in women’s prisons and the system should work to prevent violence, by us or against us. That depends on having sufficient prison officers. Perhaps there could be restrictions on getting a GRC, for people who had been in prison or charged with an imprisonable offence. Prisoners seeking gender transition have psychological assessment, and also have hormones. Taking hormones would deter most men.

I feel most men would not like to sign a form saying that they are women. I doubt anyone has had a second GRC for a reversion. I would have heard of it. It would have been reported. Google would find it. People do not transition lightly.

Another suggestion was that men go to great lengths to get into women’s refuges. Well, former partners whom women have fled often try hard to track them down, and sometimes the refuge’s security fails; but I don’t see how a GRC, and the attempt to prove he needs domestic violence services, would help a man find his former partner.

So there are a lot of scare tactics about theoretically possible, highly unlikely scenarios where a determined man might lie to get a GRC then use it to attack women. There are so many other ways men can attack women, without all that effort, why bother? The advantage we gain is that we would no longer have a long drawn out, expensive, intrusive and humiliating procedure in order to get a GRC. There is no real cost to anyone in granting self-certification. None.

Gender and sexuality

I read a gay man conflating his gender and his sexuality. He said that all his interactions with other people were influenced by his sexuality. It made him a good nurse, non-threatening to vulnerable people and unobtrusively efficient in caring. His sexuality suffused his whole character. This was several years ago, when homophobia was normal in large sections of society. His was a winsome way of appearing non-threatening, as well as a courageous coming out. He also made his sexuality acceptable, part of everyday life rather than some weird exotic perversion. It is a tactic that could win over a thoughtful conservative, brought up to see “homosexuality” as disgusting.

We would say gender and sexuality are completely different. Gender is not sexuality, because lesbians can be femme. Trans women’s idiosyncrasy is a matter of gender, not sexuality, so the word “Transsexual” is no longer acceptable, and it is nothing to do with sexual desire (because female embodiment fantasies are so shameful). Gender and sexuality are different aspects of being human.

I want to conflate them again. I relate to a partner as my whole self. My sexuality is not some abstruse, separate part of me which I get out only with partners or potential partners but part of my way of relating to anyone. Some people may preserve professional detachment, I never managed it, but if in the office I sought to put people at ease I would reveal my humanity, which means my personality.

Transition is not a sex thing, we say. I do not transition because I have a particular sexuality, but because I have a female gender identity. I am female rather than male. This does not mean I can bear children, and transition means I cease to be able to father them. What does it mean? There is no gift, talent or virtue which one sex has and the other does not. Feminists observe that their gift of leadership may be rejected by men, and even by other women, and call that an aspect of Patriarchy, a system of oppression. I observe that gifts are more valued in one sex than the other, and different ways of being or expression are welcomed, tolerated or deprecated in each, and therefore I am culturally a woman, seen by my culture as a woman because I fit the ways of being and expression welcomed in women by my culture.

Though it is normal, and normative, for a woman to be attracted to men, and I am not.

But for that man, his gayness was part of his essence, which also made him a good nurse. Being a nurse is good. Therefore being him, which includes being gay, is good. Being a nurse is good for a woman and bad for a man is a social norm he does not recognise or value.

Being like me is right for a woman and wrong for a man is disputed, and why should I assent to it? Because it relieves social pressure, but now I say the cost is too great. I always wanted to fit in, so I transitioned, because I thought I could accept myself and yet fit in. It did not work.

It is my sexuality. It is the way I relate to others and express myself. My gender is feminine, not “woman”.

Being an activist

Does being trans make you an activist? The time comes when you realise, it is OK to be me, just as I am. Then all the messages that it is not OK become toxic monstrosities, and you take up your sword against them. Or, perhaps, you transition, and carry on making your life.

The problem with being an activist is the people who aren’t. Here I am, the Truth hot within me to be proclaimed and defended, and there are they, sometimes sympathetic, sometimes bemused, sometimes wishing I would give it a rest. It does not stir their hearts as it does mine.

And I see other activists for other activisms. The woman tells me that by patriarchy men are to her like white people to black people, in a time when to say Black Lives Matter is to challenge, because for too many people black lives do not matter enough, if at all. She is oppressed. I could sympathise except she says that she is oppressed by me, and trans women are perverts who get sexually aroused by fooling others into imagining we are women. I cannot be an ally, only a persecutor. Then I see that activism may be wrong, rejecting allies and chasing irrelevancies, putting off the allies we need so making the struggle more difficult.

The Friend, the Quaker magazine, has an article this week enthusing about Greenbelt, and one by Symon Hill criticising it. If you expect the Guardian – or Greenbelt – to be a voice of the radical grassroots, to meaningfully include the excluded, or to be run as a workers’ cooperative, you’re going to be disappointed. They both broadly accept capitalist assumptions and are compromised by being large commercial institutions. They are liberal, not radical. He is glad that gay couples can hold hands there- queers are celebrated, where elsewhere in the church toleration is often too much to ask- but angry at the wickedness of the Government in cutting away support for disabled people and thereby making Britain a less civilised country, and angry that this was not highlighted at Greenbelt during the focus on disability. The Government deliberately undermines our social fabric, and Greenbelt should resist that. I sympathise- I fear the benefits snatchers. I have a personal stake.

He wrote a similar article for the Morning Star, removing references to Quakers and including references to Communists.

I was at the Greenbelt session when someone said the police should be abolished. They are always there to preserve the status quo, to prevent demonstrations changing anything, to protect property rights, to move on homeless people. I thought, “Oh, that’s interesting- why?” I don’t actually agree, because I think public order and its preservation are important, and that we can change things through democratic politics. People will see that selling arms to kill people in Yemen is criminal. We may by opposing end it. There were people there who strongly objected to such views being expressed there. I had not considered the idea before. I feel without the police, strong capitalist forces would find more brutal ways of defending themselves.

At the festival, there are a range of views. I am not dismissing the idea immediately. Someone who is angry that it even be voiced is still exposed to it. There is a mix of people, talking to each other. It’s a church festival. There might be someone there who thinks themselves wildly liberal for being willing to tolerate queers, but a bit uncomfortable seeing people holding hands. If you build coalitions and gain support, you have to have a place where activists can meet with people who have not really thought about it, might be open to some of our least radical ideas. Our choice is between ideological purity- being right, and being agreed with- or achieving change. Though it is restorative to spend time with activists, you have to work with others to make a difference.

“Cis gay man”

Is the phrase “cis gay man” offensive?

A gay man does not conform to the male stereotype, which is heterosexual. He does not pretend to conform, if he is Out, and he is gay not as a matter of choice but because of who he is. His expression of himself as a gay man contradicts and subverts that male stereotype, whether he is conventionally masculine apart from his attractions, or not.

More broadly, there would be more than two groups, whether you consider who people are, in their inward selves, or how we behave. There are those who fit fairly comfortably within the male stereotype, those who do not but pretend to, those who do not fit and do not conform, and those who transition. Those who pretend to fit are oppressed by gender- are they “cis”?

For me, the word “cis” simply means “not trans”. A cis gay man is someone who does not self identify as a (trans) woman, and presents as male, however camp. This is true whether Trans is something we are at the core of our being, so that I really am a woman, or a choice we make because transition is most comfortable, given the circumstances. I am trans because I have transitioned, even though I claim to be a feminine man who could not bear my attempt to conform to the male stereotype, so fled it.

If “cis” simply means not trans, it can include gender non-conforming people, and those oppressed by the stereotype. There is some problem when we talk of “cis privilege”, which they have only to the extent that they pretend to conform, and we never have. “Passing privilege” is something different. There is a grey area with people who are perfectly androgynous in presentation- you can’t always tell what gonads someone has, just by looking at them- but few people are in that grey area.

Am I boring you? I am almost boring myself. I read the suggestion that “cis gay man” is offensive, somewhere on the internet, and must use my felicity with words to establish that that suggestion is hostile to trans people, and unjustified. I have a right to exist.

I have a right to exist anyway, but now find myself in need of seeking to reassure myself of that. I can name me and not-me without being offensive!

I wish gender non-conforming could cease to be a thing, just be part of ordinary human expression. It is a thing because someone finds it objectionable or surprising- a child in the playground, a colleague, a passer-by on the street- and expresses offence, or displeasure, or institutes some sanction; and because we are permanently hurt by such displeasure, and ever after inflict those sanctions on ourselves; or we go into fight mode, always alert for the displeasure and armed to resist it.

THEY’RE THE ENEMY! NOT ME!

Oh God, it’s frightening. The intolerant are the enemy, those who want to force us all into tiny gender conforming boxes, men, only ever attracted to women, never expressing any feeling but anger, and life would be so much easier if-

Queer Christianity

Liz Edsall says Christianity must be queer: it must learn from LGBT folk to be truly Christian. In Queer theory, queer is a verb, meaning to rupture. Queer breaks down false binaries between male and female, to make space for queer people. Christianity too, when working properly, ruptures false binaries, between human and divine, sacred and profane. The Revd. Liz, an Episcopal priest from New York, ignores the clobber passages. Why should we engage with Leviticus 20, which calls for our death by stoning? Who would cite such a passage imagining it had anything to do with life now, or was other than repulsive? Instead, she starts with the story of the Good Samaritan, the Outsider who did the humane, loving thing, the despised foreigner who saved a life when Jews would not. Christianity ruptures the boundary between self and other, as there must be no outsiders, no bad people, no Them.

Even St Paul wrote, There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. I loved that verse, and yet there is Presbyterian and Episcopalian, even ECUSA and ACNA.

Queers find the identity which defines us, and tell the truth about it. We build community with others with the same identity. We live this path over and over, and get better at it. Liz Edsall learned the Christian path from following the Queer path, what she calls “Queer virtue”. The importance and effectiveness of both paths is rooted in their relation to Scandal. Both are powerless because they are scandalous, and that is the basis of their power. Christianity was never expected to be respectable. Mark calls Jesus “Mary’s son”, that is, the illegitimate child. It was a scandal for Jesus to touch the Unclean, defend adulterers or value people on the margins of society, such as the women who followed him. The cross was designed as a public shaming, destruction of the personality, and breaking of the body. The Resurrection overcomes death and the violent destruction of dignity. Jesus shook up convention and disrupted the understanding of power.

This disruption is good for the whole world. When she protests racism she does not just quote the Bible but gives it a meaning for us, now. The Christian Left needs a theological framework to make sense of the tradition and the world. Queer is a lens to give clarity to our vision of Christianity. Queer shows us how to be Christian: come out, find healthy pride. Christianity is actual Good News, allowing everyone to be their authentic selves, as opposed to conservative Christianity which would crush everyone into the same straitjacket.

People on the margins will not be nice but will gain their God-given dignity by opposing violence to their souls.

An audience member asked, how to queer liberal Christianity. When they oppose equal marriage, the conservatives portray themselves as counter-cultural and the liberals as infected by secularism. To revitalise our faith, Queer it; be honest about the dynamics in play in relationships, pay attention to the life and health of everyone, and make community.

Liberal Christians want nuance, and others want false simplicity. Everyone is entitled to respect.

The woman next to me, who recognised me from my talk last year, photographed my notes.

Femme jealousy

Alicia’s jealousy was pure paranoia. Yes, I am quite sure of that. Of course I have interests in common with Liz, which Alicia does not seem to share, and in our first conversation round the fire toasting marshmallows we shared about them while Alicia was silent. I noted how Liz’s girlfriend was much younger, and very attractive, as a positive for Liz. I found her thought inspiring.

Next morning, I watched Alicia painstakingly groom her highlights.
-Are you laughing at me?
-How could someone as ridiculous as I am laugh at anyone? I asked. Sometimes my humility comes across as sarcasm. She did not know how to respond to that one.
-How long did you stay after we left? asked Liz.
-I had just said “I love you” to a man I had just met. I scarpered immediately!

He had apologised for his poor English, and I said, to reassure him, that I know no Persian. Say “دوستت دارم“, he said. I repeated it as best I could, then asked what it meant.

That night, round the fire again, Alicia talked with an American man about American cities they had both lived in, a subject giving me no entrée. I did not say I have not been West of Reykjavik. My last sight of them was them walking hand in hand down the quiet, peaceful path from the festival site. Liz smiled broadly and greeted me. Alicia didn’t- even though they will go back to New York at the weekend together.

I noted with interest that they live in different boroughs. Continue reading

Transphobia IV

My mother said, “They want to be disgusting because they are disgusting”. She was talking of homosexuals, a word she could hardly bring herself to say because the thought was so revolting. The thought may have been more revolting to her than the actual person would be- I hope so- if you cut us do we not bleed? Moral disgust is like physical disgust for rotting flesh, activating the same brain area. I can’t be certain. This is one of those filters which prevent some people seeing the humanity of others. Perhaps it would have prevented her. She was a product of her time and circumstances.

“Trans women get a sexual thrill from fooling others into imagining they are women”. Really? Is that all, do you think? Do you know anyone like that? Trans women are people with particular feminine characteristics. Of course not all women are soft like this, but it is an accepted gender expression for women, when we were too frightened to express our femininity as men. I do not have ovaries, but if the law and society call me a “woman” I can express myself as I am. I am not fooling anyone, but expressing myself.

Radical feminism, when it addresses transgender, is a conservative movement. It is femmephobic. When a person identifies as female, what is being defined as female? Is it the breasts? Lips? Ass? Slim waist? Small hands? Batting eyelashes? Flirtatious smile? Long hair? Finger-nail polish? Eyeliner? Lipstick? Submissiveness? Thighs? Heels? Demureness? A want to be taken care of? A want to be adored? Cat-called? Beautified? Idealized? Softness? Quietness? Well, what is wrong with any of that? (Except catcalling). It’s not for everyone. It is for some of us. I would put it more positively, the desire to promote reconciliation and smooth conflict, and not all of those apply to me. If there were not such social pressure to conform to gender stereotypes, perhaps no-one would transition, but right now it is my way to be feminine.

Just as the conservative says, men should not be like that, so the radical feminist’s revulsion comes from her idea that no-one should be like that. We are disgusting because we want to be disgusting. No, I am this way you don’t understand and don’t want to be because it is how I am, or as close to that I can get with the ways of being and expressing myself in the world that I see available. You are not like that yourself. Hooray! Your way of being is beautiful, and I support you in expressing yourself, and oppose the forces that would oppress you. That writer objects to feminists being empathetic to confused and vulnerable people [us]. Empathy is wrong, as it sees us as people trying to live our way in the world, rather than as subhumans or enemies.

That “radical feminism” is conservative because it preserves gender norms. Rather than being freed to express our gender and subvert patriarchy, we would be shamed and bullied into presenting male, and be unable to express ourselves.

As it is conservative, women promoting this view write for conservative publications such as Standpoint and the Federalist, a publication not afraid to promote conservative lies about climate change. Just as they lie about climate change, they also lie about transgender, claiming we imagine all gender non-conformity is transgender.

Consider the risks taken and the effort required to transition, then continually just living and expressing feminine after. The sexual drive is strong, but we take those risks to be our true selves, not to get a sexual high. Who would want to be aroused all the time? My transvestite friend had a week of it, and was sick of cross-dressing by the end. He could not wait to get his acrylic nails off. He dressed to arouse, in short skirts, I wear practical as well as pretty clothes. That is perhaps why he could not make the imaginative leap to see that transition was right for me. The conservative man feels disgust for me, the radical feminist feels the same conservative disgust. Men should not be like that. People should not be like that. I am Human! See that I am Human!

Transphobia in the New York Times

What’s missing from this paragraph? What the three men in Oregon understood, but the White House doesn’t, is that in a healthy society, Islamophobia doesn’t disparage just Muslims, racism doesn’t demean blacks alone, misogyny hurts more than women, xenophobia insults more than immigrants. Rather, we are all diminished, so we all have a stake in confronting bigotry.

“Transphobia does not just hurt trans folk.” Why can’t Nicholas Kristof say that? Because it is too “politically correct”? Because no-one really cares about trans folk, because there are not enough of us to matter, because others would deny that and he can’t be bothered to argue? Because he would deny it himself?

He was writing about the murder of Rick Best, who stood up for a Muslim woman against an Islamophobic rant on a Portland commuter train. Rick Best is a hero. I don’t impugn Rick Best by imagining he might not stick up for me in similar circumstances, but I wonder if New York Times editors and writers would, because there is a constant stream of such things. They miss us out when writing about disadvantaged groups, whom it besmirches civilisation when they are demeaned, but include us at other times?

People have to choose between heating their homes, buying food or buying health care and you want them to worry about the survival of the planet or transgender stuff?…White lives matter, too, you know. That woman forgot that — and lost. We lost our discipline and our moral code in this country. So we need honest Trump to shake things up. That’s Roger Cohen imagining Trump supporters, who later he calls decent, thoughtful, anxious, patriotic Americans who felt they were losing some part of their country’s essence. I wish I believed Cohen thought me as important as climate change, but I fear he just feels I repulse Trump voters as much as climate change realism does.

This happens again and again. When the NYT needs an example of Liberal ridiculousness or political correctness gone mad, it picks on us. Opinion articles devoted to trans issues are generally positive, despite the possibly disconcerting article “My daughter is not transgender- she’s a tomboy“- but there is this steady drip of hostile references. Send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee– but, perhaps, not for trans folk.

I have to add George Yancy, published on 19 June. Is your God dead? He writes we should be mortified by the inadequacy and superficiality of our anguish when we witness the suffering of others, the sort of anguish that should make us weep until our eyes are red and swollen and bring sleepless nights and agonizing days. He quotes Abraham Joshua Heschel: “Any god who is mine but not yours, any god concerned with me but not with you, is an idol.” I continue to be haunted by the murder of an unarmed Trayvon Martin in 2012. Hundreds of thousands of children around the world are suffering. We all have known about the cruel and despicable violence toward transgender individuals. We know about the magnitude of human trafficking, the magnitude of poverty, and the sickness of hatred… “Through lamentation, voice is given to pain.” Yet our lamenting, our mourning for those who suffer, is far too short-lived. I need my lamenting to be heard. It is almost bearable, if I am heard.

It was going on since Trump was elected. What is the most boring, irrelevant topic? According to Mark Lilla, it is transgender rights. Fascination with the identity drama has even affected foreign reporting, which is in distressingly short supply. However interesting it may be to read, say, about the fate of transgender people in Egypt, it contributes nothing to educating Americans about the powerful political and religious currents that will determine Egypt’s future, and indirectly, our own. No major news outlet in Europe would think of adopting such a focus.

Ongoing NYT watch:

22 June, Brett Stephens: nominating more progressive candidates isn’t likely to solve the contempt problem, at least with voters not yet in sync with progressive orthodoxies on coal, guns or gender-neutral bathrooms.

6 July, Mark Penn and Andrew Stein, …working-class voters saw the party being mired too often in political correctness, transgender bathroom issues and policies offering more help to undocumented immigrants than to the heartland.

Credit where credit’s due- Lindy West on the need to be unequivocally pro-choice, 2 August: I hear from some people on the left that Donald Trump’s victory was at least partially the fault of “identity politics” — of feminists pushing too hard, of Black Lives Matter being too aggressive, of trans people needing to go to the bathroom — as though the violent suppression of a movement points more toward its irrelevance than its necessity. Lindy West regularly names us in a positive way.

James Kirchick does not like Chelsea Manning’s leaking, even though it exposed American crimes. I find this sentence disgusting: But it’s hard to imagine Ms. Manning receiving such a positive reception — never mind a spread in Vogue — if she still identified as Bradley, transgender being the liberal cause du jour. Ms. Manning’s atypical identity adds a frisson of subversion to her already subversive acts. Transgender, it would appear, trumps treachery. I am not a “cause du jour”. I am a human being.

A more subtle one, 24 September: Americans have rarely disagreed more in recent decades. We disagree about racial issues, bathroom policies, health care laws, and, of course, the 45th president. It’s a list of serious matters affecting the lives of millions, and in the middle is a non-issue affecting the lives of thousands, made scarily important and controversial by Bret Stephens.

6 October: Roger Cohen says that after immigrants and “elites”, trans folk are the people the hard right most hate. In Brandenburg, as in Trump-world, there’s plenty of political energy against globalized, mealy-mouthed, quinoa-loving, inequality-fostering, immigrant-embracing elites with their gender spectra, climate doomsdays, multilateral organizations, mainstream parties and smug no-alternatives views of existence.

30 March 2018: I don’t know what to make of Michelle Goldberg‘s article. She objects to an Atlantic columnist being a transphobe- good for her- but then quotes some of his most objectionable lines.

13 May: This, by Gerard Alexander, is vile: “Gender identity disorder” was considered a form of mental illness until recently, but today anyone hesitant about transgender women using the ladies’ room is labeled a bigot. No. They’re not, they’re lionised. That’s the problem.