Blindness

You should not affect to be colour-blind. The BAME person, fat person or trans person cannot be blind to their minority status.

I wondered about the use of the word “fat”. You cannot say that, said R, who is a bit fat. It is pejorative. However it is descriptive, and many words are more than descriptive- twee, like “plump”, or euphemistic, like “well-upholstered”, or judgmental, like “overeater”, which has self-control as the implicit answer to a problem, or medicalising, like “obese”. So “fat” is the word.

From my mother’s clothing catalogue I translated “classic clothes for the fuller figure” to “unfashionable clothes for fat women”. I remember that most of them were beige. It seemed to me that I could avoid the potential offensiveness of the word “fat” by not referring to it at all, unless necessary. The simplest task of ally-ship is challenging offensive language or bullying. It should not be just the fat person, or even the dietician, challenging fatphobia. I could do that. I remember a poem from childhood, where one child does not laugh at the child who fell on the floor, though all the others, adults too, found it uproarious. Why not laugh? Because “That poor little child was me”. We need allies. I should not need to be the one challenging when I am excluded. I may not find the courage to challenge when I am excluded because I fear the exclusion spreading.

A more difficult ally task is inclusion. Why are there so few BAME people here? At the CAB we talked of “difficult to reach” clients, but that has since been reframed from the client’s point of view, and I cannot remember the words. I am not “colour-blind”, I notice the monochrome whiteness of the crowd and see this as a problem- others missing out on our campaigning and us missing out on their talents. One answer is to seek out leadership of BAME people, like the Labour party committee which will include the BAME person with the most votes, wherever they come in the list, and the other person with the mo-

I find that hard to put elegantly. The two people with the most and second-most votes will be elected, unless both are white, in which case the person with the most votes and the BAME person with the most votes will be elected. I understood the concept, but how to say it is complicated.

I read that I should not expect the minority to teach me how to be an ally, as they have agency and might decide what to do with their time. I do not want always to be explaining trans issues to people, or at least while I am glad people want to be helpful, and I want to answer their questions, sometimes I don’t have the energy. Worse is speaking to a person about ones good intentions to be an ally. How should I respond to that? I don’t necessarily feel that grateful. It shows that I am at a disadvantage. But it is not me at the disadvantage, but society, because not everyone’s talents are being used to the full. This is a problem for everyone, and everyone should take part in dealing with it. Why should I be grateful, when someone is not doing the minimum necessary because they do not know what that is? You’re too late! You should have started years ago!

I enjoy advantages because of the colour of my skin. BAME people’s effort produces lesser results. The wind is at my back at least that far, though against me as a trans person. And I don’t know how to act on that.

Lesbian liberation

Some people can just be themselves, some try to be something else, and some can almost be themselves if they find a label. The label “transsexual” liberated me to be almost myself. The Lesbian Rights Alliance, a hurriedly-set up name which has a facebook page but not yet a website, claims that the identities of “tomboy” or “butch” allow girls to express themselves other than in a feminine way, but these identities are being erased. The facebook page has 296 likes according to Google. It is seeking the experience of lesbians: Are you a Lesbian currently living in the UK? Have you experienced harassment, rape threats by Trans Identified Males (“trans-women”) on dating sites/social media? Have you been pressured by LGBT+ groups, student unions etc to accept the penis as a female sex organ? Have you ever felt pressurised to have dates with men self-defining as lesbians? If you have had a date with a self-defining lesbian have you experienced rape or sexual assault?

I find this reassuring. It is a myth going round transphobic circles. I am glad they do not have the evidence for it. No-one should pressure another into sex; and there is no need for anyone to say they would never have sex with me, or a group I belong to.

It claims, Only a few years ago young girls were allowed to be ‘tomboys’ – have short hair, wear trousers, and undertake games and activities which traditionally have been considered the domain of boys, without being told that they had to change their sex. Many of these young girls defined as lesbians when they reached adolescence. This is no longer allowed. Transgender training given to schools is telling teachers that these girls are experiencing ‘gender confusion’ and should be assisted or supported to self‑identify as boys.

This is a serious allegation. Gendered Intelligence would tell schools they should support trans children, but not force that identity on children who had not expressed it. I am glad that Transgender Trend printed this in their “Resource pack for schools” because it reduces their credibility.

I can believe that butch girls are “bullied, stigmatised and isolated” but not that they are pressured to socially transition. Trans is not a “positive and fashionable identity”. We, too, are bullied, stigmatised and isolated- see the Stonewall School’s Out report. And Stonewall was a gay organisation led by a lesbian before it was trans-inclusive. Out, campaigning lesbians do not encourage cis lesbians to transition to male out of lesbophobia. The allegations are paranoid.

There is no acknowledgement or support for these young lesbians in schools and no funded youth groups for them outside of school, although there are many funded trans youth groups. Some schools, not all, have an LGBT group.

They say some tomboys later identify as lesbian, and refer to young lesbians in schools who do not want to conform to feminine stereotypes. But not only lesbians do not want to conform to feminine stereotypes, and not all radical feminists are lesbian. Some might grow up to be heterosexual viragos, and some might just be experimenting. Yes schools need positive information about lesbians, but also support for children experimenting with identity beyond narrow stereotypes. The “Lesbian Rights Alliance” ignores the rights of girls who do not fit that identity. We all have to work out our identity for ourselves, and those of us who have should support a wide range of identities including bespoke identities, so that no-one is excluded.

Not all women

“Not all women have vaginas,” tweeted Munroe Bergdorf, a trans woman. “Think about your message, use your voice for all women, not just yourself.” She objected to pussy hats on the women’s marches.

I disagree. Yes, there is pressure on trans women to have genital surgery. No-one should need to be sterilised to be recognised for who they are. Trans women are women. Dwelling on reproductive rights and reproductive matters can be a way of excluding trans women, deliberately. We feel rejected and excluded, and lots of things can remind us of that. Rejection hurts, and a rude comment in the street could depress me for days when I transitioned. Yes, all of that, and a vagina is still a symbol of womanhood.

I am not saying we should not object to allusion to vaginas because objection is impolitic. TERFs might express anger about avoiding discussion of reproductive matters, which affect most women, though some are infertile, and not all women without uteruses are trans women. Ordinary feminists might hear that and agree. Our extremism may alienate potential allies, especially when we tell them what to do.

The reproductive system, the beauty, pain and danger of it, is central to feminism. We should be allies on that, not because it is politic, but because it is right. If you don’t empathise with women’s concerns, you are still a woman, but lacking in some humanity. All oppressed people should oppose all oppression.

Our oppression is around our bodies, too, judged, scrutinised and assaulted. We may feel alienated from our bodies because they are seen as male. Yet not all talk of bodies has the purpose of excluding us, and it must be possible to talk of bodies and the oppression of bodies.

Munroe Bergdorf was objecting to a symbol, not a campaign: a cat-eared hat, because Dolt 45 boasts of grabbing pussies. It is a symbol of genitalia which most women have. How wonderful, to wear a symbol of genitalia on your head, for they are private but not shameful. The hat shows pride in every part of a body, even the ones we hide. Men wore them at the marches in solidarity, and surely trans women can too.

Perhaps there is nothing all women have in common. Not all women have the same gender identity, which is shaped by experience. Gender identity matters most to those who have to assert it, like trans people. Some women are close to stereotypical femininity and some rail against it; and non-binary people may have another gender identity and women’s bodies. What is your gender identity anyway- is it “woman” or “feminine”?

There is a slippery slope here. Refusing a wedding cake to a gay couple is not the same as restaurants excluding black people, which impinges on all of life. The wedding cake is only a symbol of rejection, but everyone has suffered rejection and is vulnerable to it, even cis white non-disabled well-educated males. The law forces service providers to provide services equally because the symbol matters and there is widespread rejection of gay people who don’t pass as straight. Needing to pass is oppression. The slightest rejection or erasure hurts, but the lack of logical consistency in the term “woman” is the very thing that allows us to call ourselves women, so perhaps we should not draw attention to the lack: the logical consistency simplest to comprehend excludes us.

Reproductive rights matter to all who can get pregnant, and should matter to all women. Biology matters. Munroe Bergdorf’s tweet brought out the TERFs, mocking, angry, yet appearing sensible to lots of people who have not thought about the matter (so it is important to be politic in these things). Gaby Hinsliff is a writer for the Guardian who generally writes on feminist issues and rarely on trans. There’s a woman alive now to contradict pretty much any given statement about what a woman is, she wrote, arguing to include us on all-women shortlists, but she was exasperated by Munroe’s tweet. Just let women, and men, be what they want to be. The rules are that there are no rules, she wrote earlier. I agree, for that is the best way for us to be included.

Possibly, at some time in the future someone will come up with a verbal understanding encapsulating what it is to be a woman and including every woman, but not men. And people will stop squabbling about that, and go onto something else.

Gender equality

Long before the Equality Act, trans people used the Sex Discrimination Act to argue rights for ourselves. I met an accountant who, fed up with going to work male, went in a skirt suit, and was dismissed and walking home an hour later; but others kept their employment rights. Arguably the statutory instruments drafted to regulate trans rights reduced them.

The Equality Act protects “transsexual persons” who “propose to undergo a process for the purpose of reassigning sex”. The heading is “gender reassignment” so at best the law makes disentangling sex and gender difficult. They are different, but not in law. Medical jargon is the same, referring to the “homosexual transsexual” suffering from “gender dysphoria”.

The Act also protects men and women from discrimination on the grounds of sex, with some exceptions for employers such as women’s refuges. However it only prohibits “less favourable” treatment, not different treatment, which is why arguments that women should not have to wear skirts to the office fail. Making women wear skirts is not less favourable than making men wear jackets and ties. So different treatment is enshrined in law.

That means the law supports the Patriarchy in saying there are two genders, and that generally they are mapped onto the two sexes, though a tiny number of people may swap from one to the other. How may we be liberated? One way is to change the idea of gender so that it is not thought to restrict capacity, such as by the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, which removed restrictions on women practising as lawyers or civil servants, or on juries. There I go, conflating sex and gender again. There is no reason why women should not be lawyers.

The other is to divorce the concept of gender from that of sex. Men can be feminine, women can be masculine. There is no characteristic, aptitude, quality, virtue or vice peculiar to one sex, or which is not equally good or bad in both. We signal our gender with our clothes and body language.

No-one should be treated badly because another disapproves of their gender presentation or their gendered behaviour. No-one should have the right to enforce gendered behaviour on another.

Arguably, the very concept of gender is oppressive because it is imagined to fit the sexes- man/masculine, woman/feminine. Ideally, society should abandon it; but while it exists people should be protected from discrimination because of perceived gender.

So my Equality scheme would prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sex. Men and women should not be treated more or less favourably, and any necessary exceptions should be specifically defined, such as the genuine occupational requirement for some jobs, or the All-woman shortlist while women are underrepresented.

It would also prohibit discrimination on the ground of actual or perceived gender: the signals we give, the behaviour and the underlying attributes and desires. An employee should be judged on their skills and abilities, not on how they look. This would permit a wider range of gendered behaviour in both sexes, and gradually strip away the link between sex and gender, men and masculinity, women and femininity. Where we generalise and stereotype people because of their sex, and disapprove of those not conforming to our stereotypes, the law could intervene and guide us away from that. The law would be applied in the worst of cases, and would guide society and people’s ideas of what is acceptable so that the stereotypes fell away.

The Labour Party

Personal remarks in the loos: “Your thighs are so slim! I wish I could wear boots like that!” She put forward a slightly chubby leg, and said she had to wear extra-wide boots to get round her calves. Mmm. I thought, too late, of ripostes: “I love your bewbies! Mine took ages to grow this big. Do you think I should have implants?” Or, more self-deprecatingly, “Well, I have a man’s skeleton. It does not please me, particularly.” Then again, she might simply have been complimenting me. She did not actually say “I love your tranny legs”.

I was a little nervous at the start of the Labour Party regional women’s conference. I am entitled to be there as my GRC says I am legally a woman, and some cis women object to me in women’s space. Just before getting up, I had read on facebook of anti-trans activists, campaigning to have trans women excluded from all women shortlists with a crowdfunder raising £20,000, being suspended from the Labour Party.

I drove there with D, whom I am getting to know reasonably well, and like, and M, who recently joined having left the Tory Party and was eager to tell of the work she had done for Marsby as a district councillor. She wanted to do good for the town, and the Labour party were far more in tune with that, but she might be nervous having been Tory until last year. D and I were friendly and accepting.

Then Beth, the recently appointed candidate, told me that she had heard from someone “on the other side of your issue”. She did not want to name it. We had been corresponding through facebook, with most of the words from me, explaining trans to her, and mostly positive comments from her, embarrassed about asking basic questions like what does the C in GRC stand for. I am in this hall filled with activist women, worried that some might be TERF.

Then I sat near a woman who had a shirt saying “A woman’s place is in the House of Commons“. I felt more nervous. It is a common phrase, and need not be related to the “A Woman’s Place” campaign against gender recognition, but that is what I thought of.

Yet the place we are in is a good place. The conference rooms are at the back of a building owned by a church, with a coffee shop and food bank. On the wall, there is this:

I love it, and others comment on it. I can’t find an exact source, but it is close to Isaiah 58.

At the back of the stage there is a beautiful quilt.

I go to have a closer look, then see what it is and recoil in shock: it has 598 panels, one for each woman murdered by a partner or former partner in the UK between 2009 and 2015. Oh! It is still very beautiful; and it brings to mind a horror. Later, the woman who conceived it, a Labour councillor, speaks of it. It is the Women’s Quilt. A man taught himself to sew so he could make panels for it, and called it “the most beautiful project that should not exist”. A woman said she had never felt sisterhood until she got involved. We need a memorial for these women. I am glad to see it.

I am happier speaking to Neelam from Unite the Union’s LGBT section. This is more than small talk. I remain nervous; however when the actual talks start I am reassured. Karen Lee, MP, a former nurse, talks of women’s representation. She is proud that she is building on the work done by Harriet Harman to make the House of Commons a more woman-friendly place. A bar has been converted into a crèche. She is proud that 46 target seats have all-women shortlists, and that includes trans women. Neelam, in the hustings for women’s representatives on the regional committee, one of whom must be from the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) community, talked of women “including trans women who are facing an incredibly difficult time”. So I voted for her, obvs.

Lilian Greenwood MP gave the closing remarks. She was delighted by “Cheryl, Nadia and Heather”, three wonderful women for a local all-women shortlist. That is Dr Heather Peto, a trans woman. Lilian says “Trans women are women” and she is delighted that the NEC has just affirmed that is Labour policy. “Abuse does not belong in our party.” That brought forth cheers and applause, and I felt accepted in that moment; and also felt the weight of my nervousness and experiences of rejection. When I realise I am not only rejected I become aware how painful the rejection, and the fear of it, is.

Women need promoted within the Labour Party. There is still rampant sexism. Someone quotes “What you said is inappropriate and I will not tolerate it” because women are socialised to not make a fuss and take care of others’ feelings and you might need a set phrase prepared in order to mount a challenge. A black woman spoke of the abuse she had suffered when canvassing for support as a local council candidate: “Get that filthy N——- off my doorstep”. That is my problem. As a white person I must stand with those suffering pervasive racism. 86% of welfare cuts have fallen on women, and the charity Refuge has suffered 80% cuts. 155 women a day are turned away from refuges.

In a session on Increasing Women’s Representation a speaker, with The Times placed on the table in front of her, says that she had campaigned in the 1970s not for equality but women’s liberation, from patriarchy and capitalism. Rich white men made the world to suit themselves. A feminised politics would have a wider perspective and be more inclusive. She asked contributions from the floor on why increasing women’s representation is a good thing- mine was that there is talent not being used, but an older woman said we must be careful not to discriminate against the men, as if that was even close to becoming a problem. The chair of a local branch had resigned from the party, and joined the Tories, because they were required to nominate a man and a woman, rather than two men, for a shortlist for Parliamentary candidate selection. There is a working class narrative about men, with women as an afterthought.

Here are feminists, conscious of the oppression of women, and angry about it. In the heat of the battle they face, I am justified being nervous about what they may think of trans women. The fight can get nasty. And, I am accepted. At the end, I am part of a photo of smiling happy activists in front of that quilt. (Someone texted it to me, and I can’t download it from my phone.)

That crowdfunder, seeking to challenge trans women on Labour women only shortlists: they shot themselves in the foot. They are suspended from the party, and what did they expect? Their transphobia was tolerated, but not their action against the party. Perhaps as a result, there was this interview of the leader:

Andrew Marr: Is a trans woman a woman?
Jeremy Corbyn: Yes
Marr: So she can self-identify?
Corbyn: Yes.

Women might complain in private, but not in my hearing. I am welcome in Labour.

Being trans, in society

Trans folk share something, but we don’t know what that is, because it is distorted by the demands of wider society. How we imagine ourselves is shaped by the stories we tell and that society tells, about what is normal, masculine, feminine, acceptable, shameful. We can’t know how we would be without those ideas, and that shame. In trying to understand, I asked, is it like something else? Is it like an addiction, where if you indulge you become less able to resist? I see others’ paths, and wonder, is that path right for me?

Curtailed by the anger of others, the abuse in the street, the rejection by friends and family, or our own shame inhibiting us out of fear of those things, we don’t know how we would be if merely accepted for whatever harmless thing we did. What we do is harmless, but people feel threatened by what it symbolises.

The abuse is far more significant for me than the acceptance. Abuse re-traumatises me quickly, it takes a great deal of acceptance to heal.

I don’t know what we share, precisely, because there are differences too. Some of us are AFAB, some AMAB, and that means entirely different pressures and entirely different desires, despite the similarity of changing gender. I begin to see the attractions of masculinity when I see people who actively choose it, but it is a difficult exercise in empathy.

Of those who are AMAB, some of us are gynephile, some are androphile. The suggestion that the androphiles are true trans and the gynephiles are autogynephiliac perverts is merely silly, because that is a mere play on words: it is a claim about what “trans” means  not an observation about people; it is an attempt to achieve acceptance from wider society by distancing a particular group from some characteristic they would call unacceptable, which can never work. No straight person divided trans people into the disgusting and the normal.

Yet the law decides who will be protected, and the community decides who is acceptable. Someone who intends to change from masculine gender presentation to feminine or vice versa, life long, is protected. Someone who expresses gender differently is not. Now I hear voices saying trans folk should not need to be sterilised to achieve recognition, but when I transitioned trans folk distrusted those who did not want an operation and doubted they were “true trans”, and now I still read of people’s delight at getting an operation or frustration at delays.

There is a strong idea in law and society that there are two genders, masculine and feminine, closely mapped onto men and women. If a man does not fit “masculine” ideals that is shameful. Belief in transition, the concept of the trans woman, closely fits that. Not male is inferior, but being really female is a partial solution. I don’t believe that. There is no gendered behaviour in either sex which the other does not exhibit. Ideas of gender oppress both men and women. Transition is a partial solution for trans people in the world as it is now. Self-conceptualising as non-binary, so permitting onesself to exhibit all gender behaviours, is a better solution.

How would I be without society? I don’t know. Possibly, I can have an idea about how I would be without society’s understanding of a trans person is, from how I was before I read anything much about transvestites and transsexuals. I fantasised about being changed into a woman, physically, in my teens. But I knew then it was OK for women, not OK for men, to show particular gendered traits. If I were a woman, then it would be OK to be me.

Trans would not exist without that falsehood, that there are two genders. There are as many genders as there are human beings; or there is only one.

Given society as it is, with transition recognised in law and having a measure of acceptance, and fitting with the general understanding of what a trans person is, I would like increasing acceptance of alternative ways- we continue to assert trans women are women, and recognise various ways of being non-binary. Law would prohibit employers or service providers from treating people differently on the grounds of gender presentation or behaviour.

Trans women: symbol and problem

Why do people care so much about trans folk? There are so few of us, we should be an anomaly, barely worthy of mention. We are harmless, so we should not be actively persecuted. People care, because we symbolise for them far more important concerns.

Ideally we symbolise the move towards a progressive, tolerant society. People enthusiastically say “Trans women are women!” because that shows they are liberal, against oppression, in favour of diversity and equality and people being welcomed for our gifts not judged for our idiosyncrasies. That can sometimes start a culture war. Mr Trump does not want trans people in the military, against military advice, because he wants to cast the “Liberal elite” as the enemies of his conservative base. To the just about managing, he says, They do not care about you! They care about those weirdos more than decent people like you! I care about you! The military wastes so much money that a few gender reassignment surgeries would be a drop in the ocean, and the issue should not really matter as a question of social policy, but instead it is a symbol: virtue-signalling of the Right as well as the Left. The Right claim virtue in policing what people do with our genitals. It is also a symbol that winds up liberals.

The A Woman’s Place and We Need to Talk tours use us as a symbol of the Patriarchy and the oppression of women. I have very little power to oppress anyone. I buy my clothes in charity shops so am not even, directly, part of the oppression of sweat-shop workers. Pigs live in appalling conditions because of me; but I do not harm a woman who sees me in a woman’s loo. I am only objectionable there if I am a symbol of sex inequality, of women having to put others’ feelings before their own, of a snub on them imposed by uncaring society.

I would like us to be seen as a symbol of how wide the range of gendered behaviour is, and how ridiculous gender restrictions are. We are then helping to break down gendered expectations. That we symbolise the breaking of taboos is good and bad for us. Things may be spoken about, because we exist. Shame drains away. And, we are the visible symbol of a reservoir of fear in society, and people’s hearts.

A friend said on facebook, women see men as a threat, some men see women as objects to be possessed. That means I may be seen as  threatening even if I am not.

I want us to be a harmless anomaly, too few people to worry about, which would be a rational view. If we are not, what is the problem, exactly? How you express the problem of trans people affects what you do. I think the problem is people paying us too much attention, and the solution is for the press to stop printing stories of a man being invited for a cervical smear test, because he adopted the title “Mx”, or a trans woman being sent to take smears. The NHS does millions of smear tests, and probably makes thousands of mistakes. The problem is trans people being nervous and frightened, or being attacked, and the solution is to protect us.

If you see the problem as “men in women’s toilets” we are in conflict. There is no solution to please all. But if it is, The Patriarchy, most solutions- campaigning for equal pay and equal representation, against sexual harassment- ignore us completely. Go and work on those. If the problem is, how can a wider range of gendered behaviour be made acceptable in both sexes, we can have a dialogue. I feel most people see trans folk as gender outlaws, rather than conformists.

I would phrase it, how can people with such similar problems, gender non-conforming, non-binary and trans, work together for the liberation of all? You are part of the same minority, not competing groups. How can we see below our surface differences to our real shared interests?

A liberal looks at authoritarians

Anyone might want structure in their lives, rules so that they know their place in society. It makes people feel secure. They don’t want freeloaders. I look at the Brexit voters who want to bring back hanging and feel incomprehending repulsion, but as authoritarians have put Trump in power and enthusiastically buy newspapers calling MPs voting against the government “Traitors”, I need to understand. I cannot just talk to my own kind.

I know they are blindly wrong. Abortion is a clear instance. No-one would wish for more abortions, but the “pro-life” side wants to prevent them only by rules affecting abortion clinics and pregnant women. These only prevent legal abortions, we say, the rate of abortion is high where abortions are illegal. Legality only makes abortions safer for the woman. I wonder if the disapproval of sex and relationships education and contraception comes from a dislike of the thought of people taking pleasure in sex without risks. I know that using a woman as an incubator against her will is abominable, and that women in abusive relationships may not have control of their own reproduction except by abortion. I wonder at the lack of empathy of anyone who would not let a woman carrying an abnormal foetus, such as one without a brain, have it removed. I am aware of “pro-life” women who have abortions, and the intellectual gymnastics they indulge to argue the rules they senselessly would impose on others should not apply to them.

Equal marriage: people are different, with different gifts, desires and values. Most human variation is completely harmless, even beneficial. Feminine men make excellent pastors and carers. I can understand the need for rules to benefit society, but not the desire for rules for the sake of them. If you make all conform, you break people.

Most horrible is the majority of Leave voters’ desire to bring back hanging. They want people killed! Whether as retribution or deterrence, if the state kills, the people are in a measure responsible. Again I would refer to consequences- the law of evidence was restricted in cases of capital murder, by judges queasy about killing, and juries might not want the responsibility- but I suppose if they thought about it the supporters of hanging might seek to counter these problems with more rules. Juries must do their duty.

These social issues matter in themselves, and because they drive “values voters” to vote for governments that impose austerity, reduce health care for those who cannot pay for it themselves, let infrastructure decay and dismantle welfare. They blame the poor for their poverty and call the accumulation of the rich a reasonable reward for hard work. We see people as good, deserving nurturing encouragement, they would encourage by fear of failure. They would make children’s learning about expressing themselves in speech and writing a matter of rules and technical jargon, rather than exploratory play; fitting in and conforming, not self-expression.

Authoritarians are emotional about rule-making. They can understand banning abortion, but not regulations against pollution, which they remove in the name of “freedom” and (illusory) jobs. They are pessimistic about common action for the common good, so oppose action on climate catastrophe and plastic pollution.

There must be a synthesis, rather than division, where one sees the other as fomenting anarchy leading to chaos, or as regimentation destroying freedom. Even Christians divide, emphasising Love or Wrath. Theories of spiritual growth or human maturity seeing reliance on rules giving way to a more mystic understanding of humanity, the value of the human heart, and the way we progress place the onus on liberals to guide authoritarians to a better way, but each side looks at the other in mostly incomprehending pity and revulsion, each feeling their side needs to rule for the benefit of the others as well as ourselves.

Change can increase fear and anger, which make people authoritarian, reaching for clear solutions, though those will fail. We drift further apart. It is for the liberals to bridge the gap.

Catholic transphobia

Catholics are taught to hate and fear trans folk. US Catholic bishops have signed a letter seeing us not as individuals but as some nebulous threat: The movement today to enforce the false idea—that a man can be or become a woman or vice versa—is deeply troubling. It compels people to either go against reason—that is, to agree with something that is not true—or face ridicule, marginalization, and other forms of retaliation.

Most of us just want to be left alone. We shun recognition because of hatred like this letter preaches. The letter casts the transphobes as victims, of unnamed “retaliation”, which justifies them in dehumanising and oppressing us.

I never asked anyone to “agree with something that is not true”. Instead, I ask them to recognise my humanity, and my right to pursue my desires, as long as I harm no-one else. That means treating me with courtesy. Some may think me a man, but I ask them not to make that obvious every time we meet: so they should use my name and correct pronouns. Why should these old men appoint themselves judges of what is “true”? Rigid consistent notions of truth leave no room for diversity or complexity, for the love and life which bishops should nurture. Society is in flux. Rather than clinging to their old ideas of Truth they should be open to how the Holy Spirit moves in humanity.

For they are deeply conservative, and any radical feminist should avoid saying anything which might encourage them. We come together to join our voices- pompous, portentous rubbish showing fear and anger- on a more fundamental precept of our shared existence, namely, that human beings are male or female and that the socio-cultural reality of gender cannot be separated from one’s sex as male or female. Gender cannot be separated from sex. God has ordained, according to these old fools, that women must be feminine, men masculine, according to their definitions not any sane psychology of humanity.

They use positive words, then weasel words which eat away all the love. They only fool themselves that they are loving. A person’s discomfort with his or her sex, or the desire to be identified as the other sex, is a complicated reality that needs to be addressed with sensitivity and truth. Each person deserves to be heard and treated with respect; it is our responsibility to respond to their concerns with compassion, mercy and honesty. “Truth”; “Honesty”- no, their ridiculous insistance that children conform to their ideas of gender. So there can be no sensitivity, no comprehension of complicated reality, no respect, compassion or mercy.

Their wicked ideas of gender must be enforced rigorously on children, they say. Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can “change” their sex or, further, given hormones. Whip the sissy out of that boy! It’s the only “loving” way! Note the scaremongering of “given hormones”- children getting puberty blockers is incredibly rare. There is a stupid and arrogant insistence that they know more about medicine than doctors: we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of “first, do no harm”- as if the whole letter was not urging harm.

We desire the health and happiness of all men, women, and children. A lie, immediately contradicted. Therefore, we call for policies that uphold the truth of a person’s sexual identity as male or female, and the privacy and safety of all. No, not privacy and safety, but the enforcement of their idea of truth.

I hate their self-deluded claims to virtue. Desire health and happiness, forsooth, or “authentic support” of trans people to reject our God-given nature. It is a wonderful example of delusion, these ridiculous Catholics, joining with the tiny “Anglican Church of North America”, a splinter group claiming 134,000 members in the US and Canada but with an eejit styling himself “Archbishop and Primate”. Oh, here’s some fool calling himself “Melchizedek”, after the Eternal priest. He is Orthodox, and claims 90,000 members in the US. The “North American Lutheran Church” is another recent splinter group, claiming 141,000 members who cannot stay in communion with Lutherans in the US. There is a token Muslim who styles himself “imam” and has founded his own Islamic Society of the Washington Area. They are all pathetic and ridiculous, yet their malice is all the stronger for their claims to “Love”, and they have some influence on poor fools, who they would order to torture children in the name of “Truth”.

Lest we forget, they hate gay people too. They affirm our commitment to marriage as the union of one man and one woman and as the foundation of society. I fear for their victims; yet they are nervous and afraid. They would not bother with such bombastic drivel if they did not know that doctors and parents are accepting children as they really are, and trans people are treated with growing acceptance and respect.

Oh, google the original if you must.

Safe space, free speech and hate speech

No trans woman should have to hear that trans women are a threat to cis women, without robust rebuttal, ideally by allies rather than ourselves. In particular in universities, where trans women are in their late teens and early twenties, where they live on or near campus and spend much of their time on campus, they should be protected from the idea that we are a threat, either ourselves or that violent men will pretend to be women in order to assault women, if we get recognition. If people say we are a threat, they feel entitled to use violence against us to protect themselves or others.

That might be the most protection we can get.

Safe spaces in Britain have been created by students, usually allies protecting fellow students. This started with far right speakers attacking students of south Asian heritage. The leaders of Britain First, recently retweeted by Trump, or the English Defence League have nothing of use or interest to say, cannot be trusted to tell the truth, and are grossly offensive to most students, not just Muslims. If you do not have the basic empathy to feel with those minority students, you have something wrong with you. Some students are prejudiced, and BAME students will receive microagressions, but generally the most overt racism is taboo.

Now, the National Union of Students policy is that attacks on students cannot be tolerated, and it was a cis woman NUS women’s officer who opposed Germaine Greer speaking in Cardiff. Their video here explains that as charities they have to be careful external speakers do not incite hate crimes, and consider health and safety. That is separate from their no-platform policy, which bans the EDL and Al-Muhajiroun. Freedom of speech should be balanced with the right to be safe from harm, such as Linda Bellos saying she would take off her glasses and punch one of those bastards- trans women. That is incitement to violence, but as they put it it might have a “possible impact on campus cohesion”, emboldening TERFs to mock or threaten trans women. If “risks or tension arose at a similar event before” that might be a reason to refuse a speaker a platform within the Student Union. The Union might consider “robust regulatory steps” to allow a higher risk event to go ahead. Steps to mitigate risk could include having Union officials observe, stewards provide security, or the speech submitted to the Union in advance.

Germaine Greer could simply have been told not to mention trans people. At another speech she made in Norwich she refused to answer a question about trans women, saying “What do I know?”

The risk to cis women of trans women in women’s loos is less than the risk from other cis women. Self-certification when one pledges to live in the acquired gender life-long by oath is sufficient protection against people faking.

Before researching this I did not know the difference between the No Platform policy, applied to particular extremist groups, and the External Speakers policies, applied to all speakers. This is arcane. When everyone knows about the difference, it is a useful distinction to allow people to distinguish different issues. When listeners might not know, there can be a bait and switch, making someone answer about extremist groups and then ridiculing the answer as if it applied to any speaker.