Trump demonstration

I had thought a lot of what to write on my placard. This was it:

Truth
Reconciliation
Respect

What do we need in public life? I started with phrases, wanted something pro-choice, and to be readable honed it down to individual words, so pro-choice ended up as “Respect”. I thought of writing the things I object to, but want to be positive. “Oh, that’s very good,” said someone, appreciatively.

I liked the Women’s Equality Party slogan: “From the bottom of our hearts, Thank you Trump for giving feminism a little hand”. Meaning he radicalises opposition. I signed the huge card they were going to send him. There were many references to small hands, and a huge Trumphair-coloured fist, with its middle finger extended. One printed sign read “Trump racist liar cheat misogynist bigot baby-jailor chimp”, lots said “Dump Trump”, or “No to Trump, no to war”.

I did not pose for a picture with my placard. My photos were taken from within the demo, seeing what I saw:

There were several camera crews. Should I speak to one? I could say something pithy and articulate. But they are American stations I have not heard of, and might be hard-Right propaganda like Fox or Sinclair Media Group.

I did not get to Friends House in time for the Meeting for Worship, but had time for a cup of tea with Michael and to write out my placard. Simple mistake: I wrote it only on one side, so had to keep turning it round. I had a stout A2 sized card, no need for a handle. There were photos in the FH garden. Then we went to the start of the march, where we were up against the barrier outside a hotel. Hotel guests with cases and shopping somehow got through the crowds: we were packed in, but we were nice people, trying to make way for them. Then we started, with ELO then David Bowie playing: carnival music for a friendly atmosphere. My favourite sign was Peggy from EastEnders, hands on hips, with the caption “Get out of my Pub”. British. Having a lark, not taking things too seriously, speaking up for truth and justice.

I saw signs condemning the president’s transphobia, and went over to speak to a trans woman carrying one. I do not want to get arrested on protest, and this is not that kind of protest. Tens of thousands of people, with the onlookers mostly supportive. Above, a helicopter circled; I wondered how high-res its cameras were. I read the police had facial-recognition cameras to identify us. I have lots of photos on facebook. Soon, demonstrating will really mean standing up for a cause.

There are speakers in Trafalgar Square, but when we get there I am tired, and Michael invites me to Westminster meeting house, where he offers cake and tea. I bump into Lucy, down with Unite the Union. I stay for the silence. The only cheap train ticket I could get was 12.15am, so I went to Tate Modern. North of the Millennium Bridge I had a bread roll and some fruit, listening to a cello and violin play Pachelbel, Bach, Vivaldi. I stayed until the gallery closed at ten. Here is its deserted corridor.

Principled politics

“Principles are to be encouraged, because they make money for lawyers,” said my law lecturer, a comment which was too cynical for me at the time. I despised those who said “it’s the principle of the thing,” or that it was not for themselves they were fighting but other people in the same position who would come after them; but I noticed it kept them using my services.

Is my politics based on principle, or self-interest? When a member of the Conservative party, I was following my upbringing. My father was passionately Tory, and I had not separated myself from my parents’ mores. And I anticipated a solidly middle-class career, so Tory policies would be in my interests. It’s also, where do your sympathies lie? How imaginative are you? I can’t say why I thought what I thought then, I can barely understand my motives now. Now, without the solidly middle-class life, I support Labour. Certain evidence indicates self-interest.

Would self-interest be a bad thing? Let us band together with people who share our interests, and do what benefits us. That seems a Tory way: if you can convince the “just-about managing” that there are benefit claimants and immigrants who would take their jobs and waste their taxes, you can get them into the Tory coalition. So I can construct an understanding. Tories want to destroy the social fabric and hand over power to the wealthy. Where the people band together to look after the interests of all, the Tories look after the interests of the rich and try to pretend Labour will give your money to others, even when that is not true.

And together we can act in the interests of all. Workers’ rights help everyone except exploitative bosses. To state an underlying Principle, there are two ways the social species can be organised: to allow individuals to accrue vast amounts of power and wealth, so that they can control others in wage slavery, or democratically, where people band together for the good of all. Hayek’s Road to Serfdom did not describe the main road to serfdom, which is corporate greed. And only strong government can prevent market failures, such as global warming and externalising costs.

I joined the Green party because a friend did, and it seemed to me I could do something useful for it. Then I left it, and joined the Labour party because only they could defeat my dreadful MP. I now want to work for the party, to get to know people, I enjoy working together. Politics within the party matters little to me. After a Labour government, public spending will be slightly higher as a percentage of GDP. After a Tory government, it will be significantly lower. These things proceed incrementally. We are not going to have such revolutionary change as we had in 1945-51. Only the centre-Left is on offer, however anyone demonises Mr Corbyn.

How can I encourage other voters? By any means which appears to speak to them, though not with the hard-Right way, to point them at an out-group and encourage them to hate it. This is our community: you can be a part of it, and improve it for everyone. This can improve your life. Principles and interests, rational argument and feelings.

The “post-truth” society

Is this a “post-truth” society? I read that “people in this country have had enough of experts” and that people believe what they find emotionally satisfying rather than the facts. There are organised campaigns of lying: the most damaging is climate change denial, which accrues wealth to the powerful at a terrible cost to everyone else.

In that paragraph I am putting a case. In answer I could say that the lies of the powerful have been worse before, and the temptations to exaggerate the truth a little, or pretend things are as you might wish, are as strong as they ever were. I am tempted to pedantry and nit-picking in my attempts to be truthful. There is academic research and informed speculation about why people might believe falsehoods, but not having that expertise I learn of it through journalists. It becomes part of my world-view, and I might mention it in conversation, affecting the world-view of others. There are discrete facts, too complex for me to comprehend, and a narrative about them from opinion-formers.

I read we are in “bubbles” of people who agree with us. On Twitter, people make clever points to encourage their own side, shouting “You’re bad” at people who aren’t listening so becoming part of the problem. My neighbour complained of widespread benefit fraud, of all the people without jobs on the estate where we live. I consider the benefit system is failing disabled people, finding even those incapable of independent living not entitled to sickness benefits. Do we decide based on imaginative sympathy, or our interests real or perceived, rather than brute fact?

How may Friends serve the Truth, living with integrity? I am aware of temptations to fall below a standard of strict truthfulness, and seek to avoid them, and notice that when I speak I am communicating feeling, often, wanting others to feel as I do. Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit. My biggest temptation to assume or make things up is my intense discomfort with unknowing, but unknowing is unavoidable, and the very word “post-truth” produces a fear reaction in me.

Is there anything we might do collectively, with another committee of volunteers or with funded central work? Are there public statements we should make, or lobbying we should do? Can local and area meetings do new work together for Truth? This came to Meeting for Sufferings on 7 April. Depending on the amount of energy you have for this, you might want to consider the beautiful minute from Southern Marches AM on p43 of the pdf MfS papers. Part of it concerns polarisation in public life, and part a felt lack of honesty. We hope that our Yearly Meeting might be a public champion of truth. It mentions the programme on Truth and Integrity in Public Affairs, TIPA, which is explained on the following pages.

Helen Drewery writes, It is possible that this is a re-emerging concern for local meetings or for the Society as a whole, but if so, it has not yet found a focus. Is the Spirit leading us? Meeting for Sufferings minuted MfS has heard a clear call to test this concern more widely and will send this minute and the briefing papers to Area Meetings. We ask Friends to consider this concern, to send any relevant minutes for our further discernment and to share news of any work they are already doing. We expect to return to this matter in November. My local Sufferings rep did not include this in her printed report of the meeting, which instead considered disputes within meetings, inclusivity and equality.

I became aware that I lie to myself because I want to see myself as a good person, and set myself to puzzle out the blind-spots preventing me from seeing truth. I find truth fleeting, hard to grasp and paradoxical, particularly truth about my own motives: sometimes I know what I want when I see what I do. The vocabulary I have to express it affects the way I see things. Nuance and complexity has fractal endlessness. And sometimes truth is pure and simple. We speculate about causes and results. I find unknowing difficult, and wish to practise being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason or even reassuring ideas that I cannot justify. My neighbour’s observation of the people around us, and my own, are affected by interests and desires. The different views are contradictory yet justifiable. Simply because I have an argument to justify my belief does not mean I perceive truth. It is always at best as good as I can make it.

There are differences between men and women

There are differences between men and women, but no agreement on what they are. Different people would name the reproductive system, the fact that women are on average smaller, slower and weaker than men, being “hormonal” or “emotional”, patriarchal oppression, rape culture, “femininity” and “masculinity”. And you might draw different conclusions from those differences, from the need to work for women’s equality and against male violence, to airy speculation about evolutionary psychology.

There are left wing and right wing views of those differences. The conservative or authoritarian view is that they are innate. To conservatives, society changes slowly and incrementally, and should not be radically altered based on theory. Current society has stood the test of time. So they opposed the Married Women’s Property Acts 1870 and 1882, under which married women could retain their own property rather than it belonging to their husbands. All the progress we celebrate now was opposed, mocked and condemned by conservatives.

The liberal view that they arise from oppression. Now, there is no problem with women taking degrees or practising as lawyers, though that was prohibited in the 19th century. Few conservatives would wish to restore those restrictions, though still support restrictions that remain.

Where do trans women fit in? If you take a rigid view justifying “transsexualism”, there are innate differences, but somehow about 0.1%-1% of people assigned male at birth are really women, innately the other sex. The innate differences have to be important to justify such a radical act. So trans is incompatible with the idea that women are oppressed because of patriarchy rather than innately different. This is the “trans ideology” the gender critical feminists oppose.

However, we also have life-experience. We are bullied for gender non-conformity. All the anti-trans argument from the conservative side, which is the loudest part with the strongest platforms, condemns gender non-conformity. We made our decision to transition against opposition, so we want people to be able to make their own decisions. So we are allies to anyone objecting to cultural gender roles, even those who say they come from Patriarchy, and in favour of gendered self-expression.

We have to explain ourselves. I am a woman. I don’t want to go too deeply into what that means, and if anyone denies it I don’t always want to waste time trying to persuade them, but “I am a woman” is a convenient non-explanation for why I express myself as I do, which sometimes elicits “Oh, OK then” from others, takes all sorts to make a world, life’s too short to make a fuss about it. It certainly does not mean I want to be part of the Fashion Police, prescribing appropriately Feminine presentation for all women, with full make-up at all times, floral skirts and satin pussy-bows.

Some people don’t like holding two incompatible views in their own minds. We call it hypocrisy or a lack of integrity. If someone needs to, often they deny it to themselves. But just as light is a wave and a particle, so truth is paradoxical, and behaviour and desire come before explanation. This is how I want to express myself. I have no desire to carry the idea “I am a woman” through to all its logical conclusions, especially not conclusions for how other people should be. “Trans-ideology”, the bogeyman of the gender critical feminists, is an illusion, no real threat at all.

I wanted to be my true self. Masculine gender was a prison for me. The way I escaped was transition. I would rather people could be gender non-conforming without needing concepts of transgender to realise themselves, but some of us need that crutch.

Some people have that rigid cast of mind which wants coherent explanations, and gets in the way of ordinary life and human relations. Human desires are strange, and if we try to find rationalisations for them they will be incompatible. Someone might need a theoretical framework so they can pluck up the courage to transition, and some choose a homophobic one- “men should not be attracted to men, so I must be a woman”. The real argument is this:

Should people be celebrated in all our glorious diversity?
Or forced by misogyny, transphobia or other prejudice into rigid conformity?

I know what side I am on. If trans women don’t get our gender recognition reform, and are increasingly excluded from women’s space under the 2010 legislation, the winners are those who want gendered conformity. Most people don’t get the nuances of precisely what the differences between men and women are. The mass who think trans women are weird, perverted and ridiculous also think women are “feminine”. The result is a reduction in our ability to escape gender roles.

Transgender, however unsatisfactory, is a way of freeing people from gender conformity. If you take away a way people can escape gender conformity, you increase gender conformity and decrease gender freedom. If you challenge people as “not genuine trans people” you make us prove ourselves, with hormones and surgery. If the gender critical feminists get their way, the result will be more medical treatment for trans people and more, not less, gender conformity.

Gender recognition consultation: questions and answers

I have not sent in a response to the consultation yet. I have until 19 October. But these are my initial thoughts on the questions, and I would love to hear what you think. How can an individual give evidence strengthening the case for gender recognition?

The first questions are about the process. What should you have to do to prove you are serious, or to prove you are trans, before you can get a GRC? They go step-by-step through the process.

1. If you are a trans person, have you previously applied, or are you currently applying, for a Gender Recognition Certificate? If yes, please tell us about your experience of the process. If you have applied, were you successful in obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate?

I got my GRC in January 2006, more than three years after transitioning. I found it extremely expensive and intrusive. I had to pay for further medical reports. Proof of living as a woman was easy for me, as my employer had been supportive and I kept my job from before, so I had monthly wage slips. If I had not had a job, or my job had been more precarious, I would not have got the evidence so easily. Someone might change their name and presentation but have difficulty getting their bank or the passport office to recognise that: the passport office demanded a letter from my GP.

I had no difficulty understanding the requirements, but I had a degree and a professional job. I had a friend who was a solicitor who could hear me affirm the statutory declaration.

I received a GRC without further correspondence, but I had to wait for a response. I knew I was trans. I should not have to have someone judging that.

2. If you are a trans person, please tell us what having Gender Recognition Certificate means, or would mean, to you.

I have not shown it to anyone. I have not felt the need to tell anyone that I have one, except when discussing gender recognition and what it means. It has not affected my right to marry or get a pension earlier. But it means that my womanhood is affirmed by the law, and when my womanhood- my right to be me, my right to express myself as I truly am- is challenged thoughtlessly in the press, in the street and throughout the culture, that means a lot to me. The law is on my side.

3. Do you think there should be a requirement in the future for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria?

No. There are different terms, including “Gender identity disorder”, and other terms may be coined in the future. The draft ICD says that gender incongruence is not a mental illness, and says The individual experiences a strong desire to be treated (to live and be accepted) as a person of the experienced gender. That is, the diagnostician is judging on the basis of what the patient wants. But I know what I want. I should not need a psychiatrist to validate that.

Gender dysphoria should not be medicalised. Some people will want to see a doctor, to discuss how they feel and what they want to do, and to have medical treatment. Others don’t, and should not need to.

4. Do you also think there should be a requirement for a report detailing treatment received?

Ew! No! You’re asking what’s between my legs. Gross! How dare you!

That is a dehumanising question. People would be sitting in judgment on me, as if transition was an inherently suspicious activity and I had to prove I was genuine. But trans is part of ordinary human diversity. Some people are trans- “Get over it!” as Stonewall says. I should be believed I am trans unless there is evidence otherwise.

The New Zealand parliament is considering its Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill. The NZ Human Rights Commission provided useful evidence to the select committee, recommending that no diagnosis or evidence of medical treatment should be necessary.

5. Under the current gender recognition system, an applicant has to provide evidence to show that they have lived in their acquired gender for at least two years.
(A) Do you agree that an applicant should have to provide evidence that they have lived in their acquired gender for a period of time before applying?

No. Transition is not something anyone undertakes lightly. We have wanted to for a long time before we do it. We might spend a long time planning and preparing: I spent eighteen months after deciding I would do it. It is a risk and a challenge. We learn who our friends are.

Now, some people who have transitioned are validated by the law, and some are not. We are all committed to transition. The time I needed that validation was shortly after transition. I was being insulted in the street, and losing friends. The moment I changed my expression at work, or changing my name, was proof of my commitment.

(B) If you answered yes to (A), do you think the current evidential options are appropriate, or could they be amended?
(C) If you answered yes to (A), what length of time should an applicant have to provide evidence for?
(D) If you answered no to (A), should there be a period of reflection between making the application and being awarded a Gender Recognition Certificate?

No. For all the uses a GRC could have, either as evidence or as psychological reassurance, its greatest need is just after transition.

6. Currently applicants for a gender recognition certificate must make a statutory declaration as part of the process.
(A) Do you think this requirement should be retained, regardless of what other changes are made to the gender recognition system?

Yes. Anyone can make a statutory declaration in front of a magistrate. If the required terms are freely available on line, so that a draft could be downloaded and changed to fit the applicant, it should be simple enough. The statutory declaration gives solemnity to the occasion. It protects by criminal sanctions against frivolous or fraudulent applications.

(B) If you answered yes to (A), do you think that the statutory declaration should state that the applicant intends to ‘live permanently in the acquired gender until death’?

I am not sure at the moment. I need to think more about some of the questions before I respond. I tend to think, no. I am clearly trans. I have the diagnosis, and I have been transitioned for sixteen years. When I transitioned, I had heard of people reverting, and thought I might find myself reverting- but even if in five years’ time I was trying to live male again, I knew that I had to transition, to try it, before I could be reconciled to that. Seeking a GRC, with a statutory declaration, is sufficient proof of serious intent.

(C) If you answered no to (A), do you think there should be any other type of safeguard to show seriousness of intent?

I can’t think what that would be. If you have a suggestion, please comment below. Possibly, just wanting to apply is sufficient proof of seriousness of intent. What cis person wants to declare themselves trans?

8. Currently, applicants must pay £140 to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate.
(A) Do you think the fee should be removed from the process of applying for legal gender recognition?
(B) If you answered no to (A), do you think the fee should be reduced?

Possibly, the Stat dec should just go to the registry where your birth certificate is, then they could issue the GRC and the revised birth certificate. Why should there be a central body dealing with gender recognition, or a register of GRCs? This should not be complex. People are trans. So there should be no fee beyond that for the additional birth certificate.

The Government is keen to understand more about the financial cost of achieving legal gender recognition, beyond the £140 application fee.
(C) What other financial costs do trans individuals face when applying for a gender recognition certificate and what is the impact of these costs?

Costs of getting medical evidence might double the fee. Solicitors may charge for drafting and swearing the Stat dec. Clearly, something is putting people off. I have been unemployed, and when unemployed would not have been able to afford a GRC.

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The consultation asks about the effects of gender recognition on other people. Of course there aren’t any, not that should prevent gender recognition; but the consultation gives a space for gender critical feminists to claim the end of women’s rights or autonomy. I hope the government does not use their ravings as an excuse to ignore our international human rights.

7. The Government is keen to understand more about the spousal consent provisions for married persons in the Gender Recognition Act. Do you agree with the current provisions?

No. Now, a married person can apply for a GRC with a statutory declaration from the spouse consenting to recognition. If the spouse does not consent, the person applies for an “interim” GRC which either party can use to apply for the marriage to be annulled. After annulment, the person can get a full GRC. There have been 196 interim GRCs, and 130 of them have been converted to full GRCs.

Marriage should not give rights of control over the spouse. Anyone should be able to get their gender recognised. Either party might want a divorce after the gender was recognised, and existing law would allow either to claim it.

9. Do you think the privacy and disclosure of information provisions in section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act are adequate?

No idea. I will think about that one. It’s a criminal offence to out someone in particular circumstances, but no-one has ever been prosecuted for it.

10. If you are someone who either has, or would want to undergo legal gender transition, and you have one or more of the protected characteristics [grounds for protection against discrimination], which protected characteristics apply to you? You may tick more than one box. Please give us more information about how your protected characteristic has affected your views on the GRC application process.

Well. White people are protected against race discrimination, and men against most sex discrimination. Cis people are not protected: anyone can lawfully discriminate in favour of trans people. Anyone is protected against discrimination on grounds of age. Sexual orientation means orientation towards the same sex, the opposite sex, or either sex: so if you change gender, you change orientation too unless you are Bi. But perception matters too: if I am perceived as gay, and discriminated against because of that, even though I am not perceived as trans, I would have a claim even if I am straight. Proof of motivation can be difficult.

If I were to claim equal pay for work of equal value, the person I compared myself to would have to be male. Men are likely to be paid more, but these claims are difficult.

11. Is there anything you want to tell us about how the current process of applying for a GRC affects those who have a protected characteristic?

There is nothing in the consultation about young people. At the moment, you cannot apply for a GRC before the age of 18, and might not have the evidence then. The Scottish consultation proposed allowing 16 year olds to apply, and various ways parents could affirm for younger children. Mermaids, the charity for trans youth, has a statement on this.

This is also the space for the gender critical feminists to do their stuff. All accusations that gender recognition means the death of feminism, the end of women’s rights and an irruption of men in women’s spaces, perving and assaulting, go here.

Yes, I am mocking. No, I am not taking those accusations seriously, because they are completely groundless and increasing gender recognition elsewhere has furnished no evidence to support them.

Then there are a series of questions on how gender recognition might affect people with rights under the Equality Act exemptions. Initially, I thought them stupid questions. They depend on the interpretation of the Equality Act, so are issues of law rather than fact. After gender recognition, we remain “transsexual persons” according to that Act. They give an opportunity for anyone to claim they are affected, and explain why. I don’t think there is any reason anyone would be affected.

12. Do you think that the participation of trans people in sport, as governed by the Equality Act 2010, will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?

No. Women remain subject to gender tests. Sports bodies can make rules about safety and fairness, and clearly could ban a trans woman who had not had hormone therapy on those grounds.

13. (A) Do you think that the operation of the single-sex and separate-sex service exceptions in relation to gender reassignment in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?

No. They can still exclude trans people in rare, particular cases.

(B) If you provide a single or separate sex service, do you feel confident in interpreting the Equality Act 2010 with regard to these exemptions?

I can see that some people might not feel confident. Excluding someone leaves you open to a claim of discrimination, and even if you are likely to win you still face worry and expense. But if there is a good reason (a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim) they may exclude.

(C) If you are a trans person who has experienced domestic abuse or sexual assault, were you able to access support?

I have not, thank God, but I understand some services include trans folk. Why should they not?

14. Do you think that the operation of the occupational requirement exception in relation to gender reassignment in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?

No. Single sex services will still be able to employ cis people of that sex. The consultation document explains that the Equality Act exemptions will still apply. But, again, there is room for the “Help help the sky is falling” interjections. I hope they only want junior civil servants to get a good laugh. I fear such meretricious objections will be taken seriously.

Similarly, single sex communal accommodation (q15) and armed forces combat effectiveness (q16) will not be affected. The government don’t think insurance (q18) will be affected, and nor do I. Q19 refers to other public services, including hospitals and prisons. There are provisions for dangerous cis women to be placed in the male estate, so these will continue to apply to dangerous trans women. Prisons are underfunded death traps, unfit for human habitation, and a disgrace, but that is not going to be affected by gender recognition.

17. Do you think that the operation of the marriage exception as it relates to trans people in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?

No. Religious people are officially allowed to be bigotted against us, because of their “beliefs”. Then again, it should be. A baptised member of, say, the Assemblies of God or the Jehovah’s Witnesses should be able to force them to recognise her/his gender. But there is no proposal to change this law.

Q20 asks about non-binary gender, and that’s tomorrow’s post.

Gender Recognition reform

Should we be able to change our gender without medical evidence? Of course. I know who I am, and you do too. Will we be able to? I hope so. The government consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act has now been published, along with “Easy-read” documents explaining it aimed at people with learning difficulties or low literacy.

The government estimates there are between 200,000 and 500,000 trans people in the UK. 4910 of us have gender recognition certificates, recognising our true gender. Not all that half million have transitioned: my crude estimate puts that at about 40,000. By transition, I mean, changing name and gender expression permanently, as I have done. I have a woman’s name, clothes, hairstyle. My mannerisms are my own, but before transition I attempted to make them manly and now no longer do so. My voice is variable, as I did not work hard enough at the speech therapy exercises.

That means the number who have transitioned is far less than the number of trans people. Some might be in complete denial and internalised transphobia, some might express themselves in their true gender in private, or in closed, secretive clubs, some might think they had a sexual perversion rather than gender incongruence, some might express their true gender in public, but not all the time. Some might express their true gender in words and mannerisms, but not in symbols like clothes. Any amount of true gender expression might go with any level of self-acceptance, from total denial and shame to full acceptance.

At the moment, there is gender recognition for people who transition, seeing a specialist psychiatrist, getting a diagnosis, changing their name and living in their true gender, though not necessarily passing. The consultation asks if the process should still require

medical evidence,
evidence of living in the true gender for a period of time,
a statutory declaration leaving a frivolous or fraudulent application open to criminal prosecution, and/or
the intention to “live permanently in the acquired gender until death”.
“Should there be any other safeguard to show seriousness of intent?”

The questions are not written to lead to either answer. You are invited to say yes or no, and why. There is no clear indication of the government’s intent.

The purpose of a consultation, a cynical civil servant (that may be a tautology) told me, is to get evidence to support doing what you wanted to do. I fear the Tory government. I fear that they want evidence to justify them being restrictive. I fear Brexit means not bothering about human rights any more. But the question is, what harm would it do? If someone wants their true gender recognised, why shouldn’t they have it?

I hope reform will mean more people transitioning, and being more visible. We will still be seeing psychiatrists because we want to make sense of our feelings, consider other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, and discuss what to do. Then we will change name and gender presentation, intending for that change to be permanent, and then get a GRC. Because transition lets us be fully ourselves, express who we really are, stop living a lie, stop pretending. Gender is restrictive and Procrustean, and this is our way of escaping it.

Some people worry that someone might get a GRC without transitioning, still presenting in the birth gender sometimes or even all the time. Would anyone actually do that? Would cis men get a GRC as a woman to enter women’s spaces? Would trans people get a GRC without an intention to permanently transition? If a woman can go out with short hair, no makeup, t-shirt and jeans, what does “living in the acquired gender” mean, anyway? Would a man pretend to have a GRC, in order to get into women’s toilets?

I don’t think anyone would. Would a cis man want to declare he is a woman, either in front of a magistrate or at a toilet door? There are contemptible game-players about, who might, but they have other ways of being arseholes. It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility, and not so likely to be a reason to prevent trans people getting gender recognition.

What I want from this reform is for being trans to be less of a big deal. Making it easier makes it more normal. The result is to blur the boundaries between genders so that people can express themselves more freely. It might reduce the pressure to have surgery and hormones: if a trans boy can be accepted without question or continual “mistakes” about his pronouns as a boy, he might not need to wear his binder so tight. Telling him he’s a girl, really, puts more pressure on him to prove himself.

There is enough of a difference between male and female presentation for trans to have meaning. Trans people often have visible signs of our birth gender which drive us to signal our true gender more clearly.

The consultation is a chance for trans people to become more visible and more accepted. This will reduce the hurt and fear around trans people. We will be part of ordinary human diversity. We will be safer as a result. People will blossom and flourish as our shame decreases. We will express ourselves as we truly are.

My estimate of the number transitioned I got as follows. 6900 trans people (excluding non-binary) responded to the government’s National LGBT Survey. 9.4% of them had a GRC (11.6% of 5600, excluding those unaware of the GRC procedure). 4910 people have a GRC. So, if the proportion of trans people in the UK who have a GRC is the same as the proportion of respondents who have a GRC, 52,153 are trans; but 16.6% had not started transitioning, so 43,495 have started transitioning. This takes no account of whether any particular group would be more likely to respond to the survey, whether people who have not started transitioning, people transitioning or people who have completed transitioning, so is an extremely crude figure. So I have limited it to one significant figure. I am quite sure the order of magnitude is correct. If there are 500,000 trans people, only a small fraction of those would transition or consider transitioning. People identifying as non-binary were not asked if they had a GRC, and they might. So that would change the figure. About 7500 non-binary people answered the survey.

Gender Recognition Act reform

What might the government do to change gender recognition in England and Wales? We don’t know, but can guess. We don’t even have the consultation yet but do have the Scottish consultation, the report of the Women and Equalities Committee, and Justine Greening’s announcement of the English consultation, made on 23 July 2017.

The announcement promised New measures to deliver greater equality for the LGBT community… ahead of the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality. That’s accurate. The criminal offences were not completely expunged from the statute book until this century. Initially, there was a narrow defence to a charge of gross indecency or sodomy, which applied in restricted circumstances. Homophobia was still everywhere, and “normal”.

The new rights for gay men were underwhelming. Men who have had sex with men, even once, could not ever give blood, and that humiliates people who want to do a good thing for society. You can’t because you’re gay. Then a time limit was put in- they could give blood if they had not had sex with a man for a year, which is quite an intrusive question. The proposal was to reduce this to three months, but many people would find that an unbearable sex famine. Stonewall’s response was that there should be individualised risk assessment. Of course- what about faithful couples? The three month limit has now been implemented. These rules are in place to keep blood donors and the patients who receive their blood safe, said the press release.

Given the Women and Equalities Committee report, the new rights for trans people are underwhelming too. They are first described as Proposals to streamline and demedicalise the process for changing gender. It is not a consultation on trans rights, but on the Gender Recognition Act alone.

Proposals will include:

Removing the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria before being able to apply for gender recognition. The current need to be assessed and diagnosed by clinicians is seen as an intrusive requirement by the trans community; and

Proposing options for reducing the length and intrusiveness of the gender recognition system.

The gender recognition system is intrusive because it requires documentary evidence of expressing our true selves for two years, as well as that medical evidence. And our promise to live in the acquired gender life long is not enough: the statutory declaration which we swear to that effect must be assessed by the gender recognition panel.

However while in Scotland the consultation proposed a simple statutory declaration, the English announcement is considerably more guarded. Many options would “reduce the length and intrusiveness” other than a simple stat dec, and we might even still have to wait two years before starting the process.

While the Committee proposed reforming the Equality Act, to restrict the circumstances in which we could be excluded from women’s spaces, the announcement refers specifically to the Gender Recognition Act and procedure under it. The Equality Act was never on the table.

Suzanna Hopwood of the Stonewall Trans Advisory Group said “I am really pleased… the current system is demeaning and broken.” Indeed it is, and no nearer being fixed now than nearly a year ago.

So it is false for A Woman’s Place to claim that self-ID would mean becoming a woman simply because you sign a form. It is false for them to claim that anyone’s rights would be affected, apart from trans people’s. They are fear-mongering. Making such statements as they do, they have an obligation to establish the truth: if they are ignorant of it, that does not excuse their circulating falsehoods. People should ignore them.

Unfortunately, the Sunday Times is spreading the misrepresentations, fear and lies: “Men identifying as women [they mean trans women] were permitted to swim in the ladies’ pond on Hampstead Heath in North London and a woman with a fear of men was locked in an NHS women’s psychiatric ward with a burly 6ft-tall transgender patient.” They also wrote, “Ministers have vowed to defend women’s rights to exclude transgender people from female-only spaces such as changing rooms, lavatories and swimming sessions. In a significant victory for campaigners, the government has promised not to put the rights of those who identify as women ahead of those who are biologically female.” But there was never any intention of changing the Equality Act. The campaigners have been wasting their time, and won nothing.

That Sunday Times article quotes the government’s response to a petition from gender critical feminists. It adds nothing. “That does not necessarily mean we are proposing self-declaration of gender,” says the response, but they are having a consultation: why consult, if you have decided the outcome beforehand? The Guardian was initially cozened into publishing the same non-story, including an insulting comment from A Woman’s Place, but later added a comment from Stonewall putting the record straight. “The exemptions to this rule only apply to sensitive and complex services, for example refuges, where services can exclude trans people if they can demonstrate that is absolutely necessary, for example if inclusion would put that trans person at risk. However, these exemptions are rarely used and in almost all situations trans people are treated equally as is required by our equality laws.”

That Sunday Times article is a propaganda coup for the transphobes. There was no victory. There was no change proposed to the Equality Act. But they have spun this as them winning concessions pledging to retain the Equality Act exemptions, and their staunch press allies have gone along with it. Further, they have spun those exemptions as a right to exclude, which only applies in restricted circumstances. We need to point out how narrow the exemptions are.

We need to talk?

How is the debate on Trans issues in the UK, and does it matter at all?

There are a variety of views amongst those left wing feminists who would ban all trans women from women’s spaces. Some are disgusted with us, and want to spread that disgust to others. Some want us excluded, and to stop calling ourselves “women”, but would otherwise be our allies, supporting us in getting separate services. Some want to divide us up- there are “genuine” trans women, who might be treated as women, but a lot of men. Which are men is unclear. Some seem to think men would pretend to be trans women in order to enter women’s spaces. Some seem to think some trans people are genuine trans women, some not- alleged autogynephiliacs, perhaps, though I have seen “homosexual transsexuals” grouped there, who the woman claimed transitioned in order to seduce straight men.

To me, genuine trans women are those of us who transition or who intend to transition, which means adopting women’s presentation in clothes and hair. It is problematic, though- need they seek hormones or surgery? Keeping a beard excludes you from this definition, I think, but what I think does not really matter. What matters is the everyday encounters a person has. And the motive for transitioning is often used as a scare factor- shock horror, someone is deluded, transitioning is obviously wrong- but people still transition comfortably.

There are also the hard-right, who want to demonise us because they like to create out-groups. That is the motivation of The Spectator. Meanwhile, it is reported that employers would be less likely to recruit a trans person. There is a low level of prejudice against us, which the Right would inflame if it can.

We have faithful allies. Most of the Labour Party say “Trans women are women”, though there is the tiny minority which think we are a more important issue than any other, and would leave the party because of it.

There are some very nasty people frothing about and some odd alliances. A man, apparently a former Nazi, has feminists praising him loudly. There has been a public bomb threat from an idiot troll. There might be some interesting ideas brewing, so many people are thinking about this, but it might be better to see what has become a trend in a year’s time rather than to try to sift them out from the cacophony now.

And really, none of it matters. Can I enjoy time with friends, am I in danger walking down the street, can I do something I find worthwhile, all these things matter. One of the most exercised transphobes is not likely to recognise a trans woman in a loo, and I am unlikely to have anyone cause a scene when I use one. There is an ugly, feverish argument on social media with a tiny number of people spending a lot of time on it, and probably very little will come of it. I would be better to find something beautiful to contemplate. Here’s a Kandinsky.

Extremists

There’s an A Woman’s Place meeting in Hastings on Thursday. Someone tweeted a bomb threat.

Then on Sunday the man said oh, it was not him: No Threat Was Made ~ Waz Made Aware OF A Threat & Want No One To Get Hurt ~ I Merely Nom On KFC. Then: Dis Iz Not A Threat Am Aware Of A Threat A Tranny Made. I can’t find his original tweet.

This is a man with nine followers on Twitter. On Saturday, someone on Mumsnet blamed me (and my allies): Yet when someone reads hears this shit, that Clare and their allies come out with, believes it and plans to bomb us, it isnt Clares fault. Note the sarcasm, the poor grammar, and the weird way the mindless, repulsive and wicked tweet has become a “plan to bomb”. I wondered if “Keem Arkwright” was a Russian troll. They want to radicalise internet debates- for shits and giggles, or to undermine Western democracy and the liberal international order, or something- and “Hyppolyta” fell for it. Arkwright’s use of the word “tranny” is clearly a fiendish plot to distance himself from trans women. Or, “I can think of another group of people more likely to have done it” said a trans woman. Nudge nudge, the transphobes are threatening themselves with bombs in order to radicalise people against us, in that person’s deranged imagination.

Honestly. No-one bomb-threats themselves. That trans woman’s comment is the stupidest thing I have read on this, and I have been on the Mumsnet thread about it.

Anyway. A few tweets from a vile idiot, and dozens of people are pearl-clutching. He should note that threatening a group with a bomb is a crime under the Terrorism Acts 2000 and 2006. That tweet could be an imprisonable offence.

I can think of few more intractable conflicts than that of trans folk and gender critical feminists, but perhaps the Palestinian-Israeli one counts. The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign hired a room in a Quaker meeting house for Thomas Suárez to discuss his new book, State of Terror: How terrorism created modern Israel. Depending on who you ask, this is either “a meticulously researched work” and “the first comprehensive aand structured analysis of the violence and terror employed by the Zionist movement” or lies and distortions. The Board of Deputies of British Jews requested the meeting house to cancel the booking on the grounds that the speaker had repeatedly made “offensive” (not the same as inaccurate) statements. A blogger, Jonathan Hoffman, phoned and emailed the meeting house repeatedly about it. The meeting decided to cancel the booking. In The Friend, the warden asked, “What exactly is the truth, and who can we trust to tell it?”

The truth is a balanced account of the conflict, giving due credit and blame to both sides. Nothing else will do. Anyone could state facts which were true but unduly blackened one side and praised the other: that would not be “The truth”. Truths can give a misleading impression.

What does a bomb threat mean, exactly, especially where it is almost certain there is no bomb? It means there is a wicked fool who finds amusement in scaring or revolting people. It says nothing about anyone else. Possibly he is an extreme outlier, and no-one else is approaching this level of vileness, even though possibly the level of vitriol in the debate is such that bomb threats are not much more of a step. “Hyppolyta” blames trans people because trans people have written some vile things; but blaming trans people may offend some who would be open to the gender critical case.

More extremism: an ornithologist took a specimen for research, and had to leave his job because of the vitriol heaped on him. Kirk Johnson in the NYT makes the case that killing one bird was proportionate, enabling a great deal of good to be done. An article in the journal Science says sample collection can contribute to extinctions. These are complex matters, not reducible to a tweet. There’s a subtle article in The Guardian about equality and diversity, after Lionel Shriver picked on trans people, among others, who might benefit from diversity programmes as “incoherent, tedious, meandering”.

Some people deliberately provoke anger to rile or cow the opposition, or to encourage or radicalise their own side. That only produces an equal and opposite reaction from their opponents. Trans people and gender critical feminists need to reduce the anger, and should be extremely careful over allegations against the other side.

Here’s a real bomb incident. It got no further than the Northamptonshire press. I wonder what the police meant when they said, the item of concern was finally determined not to present any danger to public safety. After a controlled explosion, I would have thought any “device” would pose no further threat, and a journalist’s witness said there was a “huge” explosion.

Harassment

If at a swimming pool, you are bullied by other swimmers, shouting “It’s a bloke!” or other such abuse, do you have any legal rights to stop that? Possibly.

I never dealt with discrimination by services, and only had one case of discrimination by a club. It was a working men’s club, where women could go generally, but on Sunday mornings there was a men only Bingo session. I did a questionnaire to the club committee, as a shot across their bows, and then the client told me to stop, saying she did not want to fall out with people.

So I looked it up. If a business owner harasses you, you have a complaint under the Equality Act. The business owner must take precautions that their employees don’t harass you either. The law does not state what they should do, but the more they do the more they are covered. The Equality and Human Rights Commission suggests that they publish their equality policy and details of their equality training. So if you complain about a worker, the employer is warned, and should take action: if the worker harasses you again, you should have a claim against the employer.

But what about other people using the service? In a pub, say, when someone comes up and asks if you are a man or a woman. The Citizens Advice site says that there is a right against employees, but does not say explicitly whether there is a right against other users. This is what it has to say:

You’re a woman. Whenever you work out at your local gym the other male gym users tease you and make insulting comments– for example, that it’s better not talk to you right now as it must be your time of the month again. You could have a claim for harassment related to sex.

“Could” is useless. It means “might or might not”. You need the detail in the EHRC guidance (pdf): Usually a service provider will not be responsible for discrimination, harassment or victimisation by someone other than their employee or agent, however, case law indicates that it is possible that they could be found to be legally responsible for failing to take action where they have some degree of control over a situation where there is a continuing course of offensive conduct, but they do not take action to prevent its recurrence even though they are aware of it happening.

How could that be? The business is permitting the harassment, so is responsible for it. So, you could complain to a worker. In the pub, tell bar staff that this other person is harassing you, and you want them to deal with him. Suggest that they tell him to leave you alone or he will be thrown out. Explain that the law says they should support you against the harasser.

I have no idea how to find relevant case law, but refusing to protect you against the harasser is direct discrimination. Other people can drink there in peace, but because you are a trans woman you are harassed. The business is giving you the service on worse terms than it is other people, who are not harassed.

You might not want to complain like that. It is a matter of human relations: you might prefer just to leave and not cause a scene. Personally I would not threaten court action immediately, but might be prepared to if the worker refused. Pubs want their clientele to be happy. They don’t want problems, and should be able to see the person causing the problem is the harasser and not you. You have a right to be in that pub, or any other business, without anyone abusing you.