NEC nominations and trans rights

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

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

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The haters admit, lesbians support trans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristie Higgs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dora Richter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man who has it all

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Overt homosexuality provokes concern”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psychotherapy

I want a heroic failure rather than a paltry success.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want something I can build on.

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

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

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

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

Oh fuck. Trust the world and myself??-

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

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

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

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

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

Trans women, simply explained

Non-trans friends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bayard Rustin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aimee Stephens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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