Hate incidents

If someone says, or tweets, something hateful towards trans people, should the police get involved?

In the US, constitutional protection of speech, held to include burning crosses, is fundamental, but in Britain we recognise the concept of hate speech. Hate speech oppresses particular groups, suppressing their speech, so vitiates the main benefit of free speech: hearing different perspectives so as to find the truth. But not everything that is hateful should be criminal. A hate crime involves harassment, intimidation, violence, or property damage motivated by hatred of the victim as a member of a particular group rather than as an individual. Shouting abuse in the street is a crime under the Public Order Act 1986. A hate incident is not criminal but may still offend and distress a member of a minority.

Here are the current Hate Crime Operational Guidelines, last reviewed in 2014, currently subject to a consultation. Dr Nathan Hall’s foreword (p1) makes the case for police involvement even when there is no crime: Regardless of how trivial an incident may appear initially, the actions or inactions of the police in response to that incident can have a significant impact on the way that the organisation is viewed by the community it serves.

Where there is no crime (p60) The police have limited powers in these circumstances, but should recognise that hate incidents can cause extreme distress to victims and communities and can be the precursor to more serious crimes.

Such incidents are discussed at pp60-63. Where another agency is responsible the police might not even formally record a “non-crime hate incident”- for example transphobic shouting in a school. Where no other agency is responsible, the police should record the incident. Any risks to the victim should be identified. Police forces should keep local statistics. The public may object, calling the police the “thought police” (a term from 1984), so the police should not overreact or breach the hater’s human rights.

Hate Crime on the Internet: see pp115-122. Making threats is a crime, and if the anonymous individual is in England, threatening someone in England, and can be identified then English courts have jurisdiction even if the servers are elsewhere.

There is a site, True Vision, on which to report hate crime including on the internet. Personal threats should be investigated.

Not all hate is criminal. On line, haters radicalise each other, and their hatred may spill over into real world harassment and intimidation, but criminalising the hatred is politically impossible. And while I would like the self-righteous hatred exhibited by such as WPUK rebuked, I find others called “extremists”, such as Extinction Rebellion, admirable, so don’t want criminal law to encroach too far. Yet I read that the vile Harry Miller tweeted personal abuse as well as the inanities quoted by the judge, so possibly he got away with his court action because of the evidence rather than the facts.

Uppity trans

I don’t want to ask for permission any more. I don’t want to tell my hurt in a desperate quest for sympathy, because if they sympathise with my hurt they might not be so horrible to me. Rather, if I tell my hurt I am written off as hysterical, emotional, not worth listening to.

I ask you to tell your hurt so you will cease to be the expert social scientist and become the hysterical woman, and people will laugh at you.

I ask you to tell your hurt so that people might genuinely be sympathetic, and be motivated to take action against the wrongs you have suffered.

I am ambivalent about this.

The Jews who called for a vote to defeat Labour at the last election appalled me. They would pick on some evidence that Mr Corbyn is anti-semitic, rather than pacifist and supporting oppressed groups, and so boycott Labour giving a boost to the racist, homophobic and probably anti-semitic Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, a psychopathic liar. This article offends me in so many ways, particularly this bit: [Jonathan] Sacks wrote his book as an eloquent critique of multiculturalism, and a plea for Britons to find a way to build a common culture predicated on respect for difference. What Sacks does not describe is the one form of unity that arose from multiculturalism: intersectionality, where diverse groups have come together in a shared culture of victimhood and a shared hatred of Jews. As Sohrab Ahmari wrote in these pages: “Precisely because it is a theory of generalized victimhood, intersectionality targets the Jews–the 20th century’s ultimate victims.” No, intersectionality is about seeing people’s disadvantages, so that we may work together against them. You are not the only group suffering victimisation, and your insistence that you are repels me.

I don’t like members of disadvantaged groups pretending that theirs is the only disadvantaged, or the most disadvantaged, group. It just sets groups against each other. I don’t want merely to dismiss arguments for such a position- some speak to me, for example this one“The older generation in the African American community, they kind of bristle at the fact that same-sex marriage is being compared to the civil rights movement,” says Maryland Delegate Keiffer J. Mitchell, who represents part of Baltimore and voted for gay marriage. “People would throw bottles, cuss at us, say all sorts of names, just because of the color of our skin,” Derek McCoy [a pastor and campaigner against equal marriage] recalls about his childhood in the South. “So I can’t imagine that we can equate the redefinition of marriage to the civil rights struggle.” I hear your pain. I do. And gay people have also suffered violence, even murder, and daily abuse.

When I use the word “uppity” in my title, I am alluding to Black people’s struggle, as it was a word used to condemn them. I am nervous about claiming the word. Yet I am claiming it.

I abhor the selfishness of that Jew. How dare he pretend his victimhood is greater than others’? It’s not just the Holocaust, of course, it’s the exile from England, amongst other things- the oppression of English Jews was shocking, and the persecution and murder runs throughout the ages- yet that does not entitle him to dismiss the suffering of gay people Black people Muslims or others any more than an Eton-educated white straight non-Jewish man should.

Yet I love this bit.

This electoral result is truly a source of jubilation and celebration; but what occurred in Anglo Jewry before the election is worth celebrating as well. The stand taken by Rabbis Sacks and Mirvis, and others in England, should inspire Jewish pride everywhere. After centuries as guests in an English “country home,” and decades as targets of the multicultural left, British Jews spoke as equals in their country.

Of course he is delighted. They stood up and said loud and proud,

THIS IS OUR RIGHT!

I would like to speak in that way too. Anyone may be broken by prejudice. That’s why we don’t play oppression olympics: however little it seems to other people, you may be crushed by it. I need the hate to bounce off my shield of righteousness. “Fucking poof!” that man screams at me, and I laugh at him, because he is laughable, a dimwit consumed by his hate.

There is a time for apology and circumspection, and “if the rest of you don’t mind”, and a time for assertion. This is who I am. If the assertion is honest, confident and unforced, we might even be accepted on our own estimation!

Are women the victims of prejudice amongst Quakers? Just because there are 66% more female members and attenders than male, does not make this impossible.

Authoritarian transphobia

Are anti-trans campaigners fascist, authoritarian, or all right-wing? Arguably.

What is fascism? This source says, ultranationalism, illiberalism, a strong impulse to regiment society, and the forcible suppression of opposition. Roger Griffin defined fascism by its core myth, national rebirth achieved by revolution, which he called palingenetic ultranationalism. Fascism in Britain opposes immigration, and claims rights for “indigenous” white people against others, saying the people or the culture are diluted by immigration. It might be possible to argue opposing transition is fascist like opposing immigration, but seems a bit of a stretch.

I don’t want to call them fascist, because of the monstrosity of fascist regimes in Europe and South America. The “strong impulse to regulate society”- well, they claim transition is a threat to trans men and to children, and that trans women are a threat to cis women- is not enough to be fascist by itself.

Are they authoritarian? Bob Altemayer defined authoritarian as right-wing, being three attitudes: (1) authoritarian submission –a high degree of submission to the authorities who perceived to be established and legitimate in the society where one lives (2) authoritarian aggression –a general aggressiveness, directed against various persons, which is perceived to be sanctioned by established authorities (3) conventionalism –a high degree of adherence to the social conventions that are perceived to be endorsed by society and its established authorities. I found that here. However Britain is still part of European human rights structures, which mandate self-declaration of trans people, though the Conservative party now entrenched in power on a minority of votes cast last month proposes to change that. We have a strong strain of social liberalism in this country, that people should be able to choose our lifestyles, or live authentically as we are.

Again, their desire is to create a group against whom general aggressiveness is sanctioned, rather than follow an authority. In the past, society as a whole was prejudiced against LGBT people, and has grown more accepting; anti-trans campaigners want to roll that back.

So they are right-wing, promoting or entrenching a hierarchy, rather than left-wing, promoting equality. Even there they might demur- they are fighting for women’s rights, they say. The right wing trans excluder says women are different from men, socially, so trans women are not women. The left-wing trans excluder says women are oppressed, and that the only relevant difference is the reproductive system. I have some sympathy with that: women are oppressed, by sexist attitudes and by sexual harassment. However trans exclusion will not benefit women’s rights, and the far right is funding TERFs.

The anti-trans campaigners want to create a hate group. They say trans women are a threat, mock us, and claim to fear us. In that, creating a hate group by themselves, without following an authority, they might be seen as hard-right insurgents or even fascist, moulding social attitudes in an authoritarian direction, but that diverts debate onto whether they are authoritarian, right wing or fascist generally, and what these things mean. Many anti-trans campaigners will be liberal and left-wing concerning other opinions.

Claims that free speech is under threat are mainly on the right. Winston Smith said Freedom is the freedom to say that 2+2=4– to state obvious truths, or to state what I see as truth even if widely denied- and they want the freedom to say “sex is real”, “trans women are men”. However, again, this is a means, not an end: the end is to make trans people an excluded group, mocked and vilified. Use of right wing tools in one instance does not make them right-wing. They want to stop us using our language. They claim they are not anti-trans, just for trans people to have the same rights as everyone else, for example that trans women, being men, should not enter women’s spaces. They refuse the words TERF, cis, trans woman. Control of language is a source of power, but creating or forbidding words and phrases as a way to promote or suppress particular ideas is a tool of right and left.

So I would not say that the anti-trans campaigners are authoritarians, or fascist, or right-wing; just that they want to create a hate group. That is bad enough. That cuts to the heart of what they are doing. Women will be no safer and no better off if all trans women are excluded, and trans people will be considerably worse off. Feminist campaigning energy is being diverted from punching up, and seeking reform which might do women some good, towards punching down at trans people.

If my freedom to live my life as a trans woman is denied, everyone is less free. That should be enough to condemn the anti-trans campaign.

Trans and politicians

The Labour Party leadership contest is on. What are the candidates saying about trans people? What would we like them to say?

There is a principled position- trans women are women, trans people know who we are, including trans children. And there is a “principled position”- sex is real, gender is meaningless; there should be no men in women’s spaces; trans women are men; children are under threat from trans ideology. It’s nasty, it’s unrelenting and it is unwilling to compromise.

So what I want is pragmatism. I want politicians to affirm certain clear truths: it is wrong to judge a class of people by one or two individuals. It is a propagandist way of fomenting hate. Even if someone can name a trans rapist and several trans people she dislikes, most trans people are decent folk trying to live ordinary lives. Trans women are mostly harmless, and mockery and hatemongering is wrong. No man will pretend to be trans in order to assault women: rapists don’t need to. Yes “sex is real”, but gender is all-pervasive in the culture and some people deal with gender nonconformity by transitioning. Children below puberty may identify as trans, and allowing them social transition in school improves their mental health. All children should be supported and bullying is unacceptable. Children above puberty are not a threat until proved so, if they are trans they can be accepted in schools in their true gender. Children who feel safe, valued and respected will thrive and seek their own best interests. With an increase in child referrals, child gender clinics need more funding and more training for professionals.

You have a right to free speech, but if you claim the right to insult someone you may suffer consequences. The law, which says trans women can enter women’s space but be excluded if that’s reasonable (a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”) is good enough.

Then we could get over the drama. There is a huge amount of abuse: when Jess Phillips tweeted “I was one of the MPs who wrote the report on improving trans rights” an anti-trans campaigner made an excellent point: “Nothing you do or say will ever be enough”. Exactly. He meant for the “Trans Rights Activists” who s/he thinks make unreasonable demands, but the transphobe who tweeted that she is a “traitor to her sex” won’t be satisfied by anything less than total ideological purity either. And some oaf tweeted “Can’t wait for you to lose embarrassingly”: twitter is a place for hatred and spite where opposing groups meet, and for extremists to encourage each other into even more uncompromising positions.

There will be more direct questions. Keir Starmer said something worthwhile, and a video is circulating: We have instinctively to protect and defend, and we mustn’t make a political football and I’m really worried on this particular issue that a particularly vulnerable group is being used as a political football across the Labour Party and we have to deal with it in a much much better way than that and the Government has effectively now abandoned this and any legislative change I think won’t come under this Government so we’ve got to make the argument on this loud and clear and start with the proposition that this is a group, a small group of people who have been subjected to incredible abuse and discrimination for a very very long time.

Precisely. He did not say what “the argument” was, so he could weasel out of challenges from the transphobes, but it’s pretty clear he is not condemning the small, vulnerable group (us).

And, let them move on! Jess Phillips worked in women’s refuges. Of course she is interested in, say, the Weinstein trial. As the Weinstein trial begins I am reminded of the bravery of those who spoke truth to power– neatly including her slogan for the leadership, Speak Truth. Win Power. Trans women should be too. Violence against women and girls is a women’s issue, so a trans women’s issue, so everyone should be concerned with it.

Lisa Nandy put it well: see her video.

More Simeon Solomon: the androgynous beauty of Bacchus.

Maya Forstater

I have a philosophical belief that Maya Forstater is a transphobe. Her employment ceased because of her transphobia, and the Employment Tribunal has found against her enraged, entitled challenge to her dismissal. Like all “gender-critical” transphobes she thinks of herself as a martyr, but she was sacked, rightly, for being willing to humiliate and disregard others unfortunate enough to encounter her.

Forstater believes that no-one can change sex, and that trans women are men. The judge questioned what she thought of disorders of sexual development, and found she accepts they exist, but believes everyone, even those with such disorders, has one sex or the other (para 41). The judge questioned whether such a belief could be described as “scientific”, as she does, but decided that the belief was sufficiently coherent to qualify as a belief, even if it is wrong (para 83).

Forstater claimed (para 78) that her belief that trans women are men was important because it was necessary to support her sense of self. That is the transphobia. Rather than seeing a trans woman in women’s space and accepting that’s probably OK, lawful, and completely unthreatening to anyone, she starts to feel her sense of self threatened. She wants to object, and possibly she wants the trans woman excluded.

This is illustrated by her dispute with Gregor Murray, a non-binary person, who complained about her to the Scout Association. She had referred to them with the pronoun “he” in a tweet (paras 35 and 89). It is not clear from the judgment what happened before the complaint, but responding to the complaint she said, I reserve the right to use the pronouns “he” and “him” to refer to male people. While I may choose to use alternative pronouns as a courtesy, no one has the right to compel others to make statements they do not believe.

The judge decided, para 90, I conclude from this, and the totality of the evidence, that the Claimant is absolutist in her view of sex and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.

This is the basis of his decision. Forstater is entitled to hold her belief, to state it, and even to act on the basis of it in many situations: not all harassment is unlawful. But she was claiming in tribunal that this was a philosophical belief protected under the Equality Act, and that she had a right not to lose her job because of her belief. The judge has decided that her belief fits all the criteria for protected beliefs (para 50) except the last: it must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others. She might even have a claim of indirect discrimination- she asserted women are more likely to hold such beliefs, and that claim was not part of this preliminary hearing. There are other issues between the parties and the case may continue. The only decision is that her belief that trans women are men is not protected under the Equality Act.

She “believes” that she can call me a man and I have no right to object. If she had a right to act on that belief in all circumstances, my right to not be harassed would be worthless. The judge says (para 87) It is obvious how important being accorded their preferred pronouns and being able to describe their gender is to many trans people. Calling a trans woman a man is likely to be profoundly distressing. It may be unlawful harassment. Even paying due regard to the qualified right to freedom of expression, people cannot expect to be protected if their core belief involves violating others dignity and/or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

I say if a trans woman is distressed by being called “he” she should grow a pair, or perhaps, “grow them back”. Some people will take any opportunity to distress you once they see they can do so that easily. Then again, perhaps I could distress Maya: I would look her in the eye and say, calmly, “I am a woman”; and her brain would explode as her “sense of self” disintegrated.

She stated there was an opposite belief which people held which she thought was wrong (para 5); Some people believe that everyone has an inner “gender”, which may be the same as or different to their sex at birth, and that gender effectively trumps sex, so that “trans men are men” and “trans women are women”. Typically such proponents believe that that “trans women are women” from the moment they identify as women (if not before). That’s not what I believe. I believe culture enforces gender roles and stereotypes from birth, and that because culture limits the way people who don’t fit those stereotypes can act, some people transition. It’s not necessary to believe anything to treat a trans woman with respect, and using the wrong pronouns deliberately can be harassment.

To me it is entirely reasonable not to renew someone’s contract because you reasonably fear she might harass, disrespect, or even distress a client. The Daily Mail exaggerated to the point of lying: Britons have no right to ask whether a transgender person is male or female, said their headline. Their first sentence was gibberish: A landmark ruling (No, an employment tribunal, not even an employment appeal tribunal) has found that there is no right to question whether a transgender person is a man or a woman. There is a right, it is just limited under certain circumstances, as your right to swing your fist ends in my personal space. You can assert I am a man, but there are situations when that is objectionable.

The Mail journalist, not understanding, even manages to say something Ms Forstater might find offensive: If the employment judge had sided with Miss Forstater, firms would have been barred from sacking staff if they expressed the belief that there are only two genders, even if some people found that offensive. The anti-trans campaigners have to educate even their allies on the difference between sex and gender.

The Telegraph got the law mostly right, but devoted paragraphs to expressing Ms Forstater’s anger and distress. So did the Guardian. That will give some readers the required dopamine hit of anger against trans people.

The Guardian quoted Index on Censorship, which supported Ms Forstater’s claim: From what I have read of [Forstater’s] writing, I cannot see that Maya has done anything wrong other than express an opinion that many feminists share – that there should be a public and open debate about the distinction between sex and gender. That is arguable. It points up how narrow the judgment is. It has not even decided that the termination was reasonable and lawful, only that her argument that it was unlawful because her belief was protected has failed. In the emotional atmosphere, few supporters of Forstater will see this nice distinction.

JK Rowling tweeted, Dress however you please.
Call yourself whatever you like.
Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you.
Live your best life in peace and security.
But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?

That is the misunderstanding the phobes will push. Getting the truth out to barely interested parties will be difficult. Some, er, trans-critical-curious people may be radicalised by this lie. The row about Rowling being transphobic, now reported in the Guardian, only increases the exposure of Forstater. Whether Forstater had won or lost this case, the reporting would have been a disaster.

Here is the judgment.

The Centre for Global Development, the Respondent in Forstater’s claim, has made statements about the case.

15 November: the hearing begins.

18 December: CGD and CGDE pride themselves as workplaces that support and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in both policy and practice. We have always disputed the claimant’s allegations, and are grateful Judge Tayler has ruled in our favor regarding this particular matter. We look forward to continuing to make our case in the Tribunal as the Claimant’s employment status is considered next month.

Employment status affects what rights Forstater has and what action she might win in an employment tribunal. It’s the difference between a “contract of service” and a “contract for services”- it’s quite technical. CGD and CGDE maintain that Ms. Forstater does not have the necessary employment status to pursue these claims as she was an unpaid visiting fellow and occasional paid consultant.

3 January 2020. Another decision on protected beliefs: Casamitjana v The League against cruel sports. A short summary judgment found ethical veganism, which is not solely about eating but also about using animal products or products tested on animals. The LACS did not contest the point, and a short summary judgment was issued confirming ethical veganism is a protected belief. I could not find it today on BAILII or the Gov.UK ET decisions site.

Gender Recognition Reform in Scotland

The new draft law on gender recognition in Scotland has been published. There’s another consultation on it, which shows how far the hate campaign against trans women has come. The proposal is good enough, but the commentary and blog posts talk incessantly of “women’s rights”- the commentary says there is no threat to women’s rights, of course, because that is simply true, but raising the matter will encourage anti-trans campaigners to complain. Continue reading

Social Conservatism

When people object to immigrants, and my American-born friend says “I’m an immigrant”, they often say, “oh, we don’t mean you”. She has British nationality, but not all those people would know that. It’s the same with a Canadian woman I met. I wondered what the difference was from my German friend, who has a slight accent, noticeably foreign if you’re listening out for such things, who is a successful professional woman whose grown up sons are English, who has been told to “get back where you came from”. Is it because Canada, US, Australian and New Zealand citizens speak English as a native language? Is it because Germany has won the World Cup more than England, and we fought two world wars against them?

I think it’s because no-one’s been taught to hate the Americans.

There’s certainly no real distinction other than nationality at birth, and I am not sure why that should be a distinction.

So what does social conservatism achieve for the average social conservative? It gives them someone to look down on. It gives them someone to blame, even to hate. It gives a symbol, like Brexit. We, the 17m, matter because Parliament is at last giving us what we voted for. I may be struggling from wage to wage, never knowing I will have enough, but at least I’m not gay. (Irony ALERT!) It gives them a cat to kick. When their manager has humiliated them and they can’t speak back, they can take out their rage on Immigrants (which includes Black people whose parents were born here).

It gives them something to care about which will either make no difference to their lives, or hurt them. Brexit is no good for anyone unless they have a spare £500m to short the £. But it is made a symbol of Democracy and the value of Leave voters. It’s what they are told they want. Similarly with gender self-declaration: no woman will be any safer if all trans women are excluded from all Single Sex Spaces, but it is something they can campaign for to show they matter. Equal pay would be better, but the Tories are not going to do anything to achieve that.

Social conservatism is corrosive to the soul. It lets people judge others harshly without even knowing them, by stereotypes divorced from reality. It produces the sensation of righteous anger, but you cannot warm yourself by the frigid flames of this hate.

It achieves nothing. It may make others’ lives more miserable, LGBT folk, BAME folk, immigrants, with no gain to the average social conservative.

It gains something for the plutocrats and the conservative politicians who serve them. It increases anger, and the angry and fearful are more likely to vote conservative. Don’t come here expecting handouts. Don’t change our country to suit your way of life, ranted someone on facebook, and I imagine him puce with anger at a myth. People want to work and better themselves. No-one just wants handouts. It suppresses votes on the other side, which have to be votes for hope for something better. Someone else ranted, Our country is run by the major capitalist conglomerates and vastly wealthy individuals worldwide who politicians merely serve. Lets not fall into the trap of believing that politicians of any persuasion actually “care” about the common man. I think John McDonnell, for instance, went into politics to make life better for people. Possibly even John Major. Voting for better public services means voting for hope. It’s not “free stuff”, it’s basic services which make everyone’s lives better and build communities.

So Labour should make no concessions whatsoever to its “traditional voters’ reasonable concerns” about immigration, gay-inclusive education, or “streets where no-one speaks English”.

Labour could have made real differences to people’s lives, making Britain better for everyone, but now we have a government of the reptile overlords, “unchained” from Parliamentary scrutiny by their huge majority. The choice as always is rage or hope. The Left can only win through hope.

People matter

The message of the Left to unite the working class and the middle classes, the liberal metropolitan types and the “left behind” of the towns blighted by Tory (or Republican) governments, could be condensed into two words: You matter. Or, People matter.

The Tories lie to set us against each other. It’s all a lie. Few immigrants come here “wanting a hand-out”. They come here wanting to get a fair chance to get on in the world, as most people here do. Benefit claimants would rather be earning a decent wage for a fair day’s work. Tories and the Tory press demonise all kinds of people. There are dog-whistles. People complain about immigrants, and when my white friend says she is an immigrant and the other person says “Oh we don’t mean you”- because she is from North America, and there are no dog-whistles about people from there- she knows what they mean.

As a member of what the Tories would call the “Metropolitan Elite”- remainer, socially liberal, though I live sixty miles from a city, six from a large town, and my income is low- I don’t necessarily talk easily to the working classes. I don’t know someone knows I see them as equals. When nervous I might have a superior air. The film Pride, about Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, may be part of a model.

There are Tory lies. Immigrants/ benefit claimants are on the take. It is natural to dislike people with a different skin colour to yours. Islam is an authoritarian religion. The Metropolitan Elite (Hello!) tell you these things are lies, and that’s because they patronise you, despise you, are not in touch with the beliefs of Real People. We understand you. We respect you, they don’t. When you voted to take back control that was the Will of the People, and the Elites have blocked the people’s will ever since. But now we can Get Brexit Done. 

All lies, all reinforced by the Sun and by particular facebook memes enthusiastically shared- on Election night,
MPs off to the Jobcentre!
Wait for the riots and teeth gnashing from the poor remainers
Good Riddance Traitor (with a picture of Mr Corbyn in an electric chair)
Sore Losers Sore Losers Everywhere

That evening:
Never mind Dad, at least you tried (with a picture of Steptoe and Son)

Yesterday:
Even if we disagree about everything we can still be kind to each other
This weekend, please be excellent to each other.

Everyone should have a facebook friend like that. Or, I read this crap so you don’t (usually) have to.

I don’t know how to approach. You matter, even if we disagree, is not the same as I am better than you. Unfortunately the accent and the North London- bien pensant was the slur before Metropolitan Elite- attitudes set off feelings of inferiority in some, leading to an angry response.

However there are people who value you as worthwhile human beings, and want to provide decent public services for all including you, and people who pretend to value you by telling you you want Brexit therefore you should get Brexit and if they deny it they are disrespecting you and being democratic. And because we, the hard right, want it too it can’t possibly be us who blocked it in March. Or telling you yes, equal pay might be a good thing, but the real symbol of women’s oppression is trans women in the loos.

Onywye. That’s part of it. This is a blog post. The Left is about respect for everyone. The Right is about setting everyone against each other. And that includes the working classes, those who think immigrants “treat this country like their own” as if that could be a bad thing, Queers, Guardian readers, people who would pay more tax for decent public services…. none of these can be free unless all are.

I went to the National Gallery again today, and saw three paintings of the Coronation of the Virgin, when Mary rises into Heaven and is crowned by Jesus. In one, she is bowing her head, and he is clearly a Person of the Trinity, God, the one in control. In another, they seem to love and respect and celebrate together as equals. I prefer the latter.

Jesus as God:

Or Jesus and Mary as equals.

On the doorstep

I heard many criticisms of Mr Corbyn. He was derisively called the “Magic Grandpa,” making ridiculous promises which enticed the youth but could never be kept. One, older than he, said he was too old. He was called antisemitic, unpatriotic, extreme left.

One Union man wanted to get Brexit sorted, and only the Tories could. I tried to argue with Brexiters: Johnson, and the little local climate-denier, had voted against Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement. Brexit had not been done because the Tories are incompetent, and hated each other as much as they hated their non-millionaire voters, so fought amongst themselves and could not co-operate with other parties. No, they said, it was Parliament what blocked it.

I stayed and argued longer than I should. One woman told me that she worked for the NHS, but she still would vote Tory. I told people that Labour reduced the debt better than the Tories, and increased economic growth, and a man said the world financial crash had affected Britain so badly because Gordon Brown had reduced banking regulation. It is Labour’s fault when they are too right wing, and Labour’s fault when they are too left wing. After one, the man running the board told me to go to another house, and I said I had to take a moment, to let go of my feelings about the last one before I could approach yet another door and say, with a broad smile, “I’m with Beth Miller, your Labour candidate. We hope you will vote Labour in the election”.

One woman told me that’s private, one woman told me we should not be canvassing on a Sunday, which led me to wonder if she would read a novel or only her Bible on Sunday. Another woman started shouting at us that we should not be canvassing after dark, the old people would not open their doors, so when could we canvass and meet people who had office hours jobs?

I spoke to LibDem Remainers who would vote tactically for Labour, and enthusiastic Labour voters. A man told me he was comfortably off so would vote the way his daughter requested. A woman told me she would vote as her husband did, which did not please my feminist co-canvasser. Women told me they wanted strong women MPs, and I referred to Diane Abbott, Angela Rayner, Jess Phillips… Barbara Castle… Beth Miller.

I wanted name recognition. Name her. Make the name stick in people’s memories.

I walked around sticking leaflets through doors until my ankle went and I was dragging my right foot. I leafleted in the rain and the dark so that I could not see the step on someone’s path, and stumbled, grazing my knuckles. I did more canvassing, wearing an ankle support.

One man drove all over the constituency putting up signs in gardens, and drove me to Corby to campaign. We chatted in the car, of economic and other arguments. I have another facebook friend. I hope to see him again if we campaign again.

And today we have a Tory MP with an increased majority and a mad Tory government of monsters, which deselected its least hard-right MPs including several ex-cabinet ministers. It is a Tory party without talent led by a lying sociopath who went into politics out of vanity rather than conviction and likes to incite hatred against “bumboys”, “letterboxes” and “piccaninnies with watermelon smiles”.

I went to the library to return The Testaments, and got chatting to the volunteer there. No, now she is only reading for her sermons, she is a Baptist preacher. She takes great care over the wording of her sermons. She preaches for ten minutes, but makes each word count. I would talk of sermons and theology, of incarnation and its meaning, of “cast down the mighty from their thrones, and lift up the lowly”. I am a Quaker, I said. Oh, really? Do you know –? Yes. She is a lovely person. Yes, she is. She is Ruth’s good friend. I say my name was popular twenty years ago, and she says Ruth is never a popular name, it always goes on. I had wanted to talk of sermons, but saying I am a Quaker made the conversation more shallow rather than deeper. Then she answered the phone and went all pastoral, listening to someone’s concerns.

I brought the bin back in. As I passed his back door my neighbour was smoking, and I said hello. The gate jammed against the path. It will stay open, I thought, even though it is so windy, long enough to get the bin. It slammed shut. I went to climb over it, but my neighbour came and opened it. I was grateful. I had not thought to ask him.

Limits on trans campaigning

Should there be a limit to trans rights? Trans women are women, but do our rights ever conflict with other women’s? And separately is there a political limit to the trans rights we can ask for now, in fear of alienating potential allies who would at least support us in some of what we claim?

Trans rights claims are limited because feminist battles are not won. There is endemic violence and sexual harassment against women, from partners and colleagues and strangers. Women are shamed into secrecy around reproductive health, restricted by law on bodily autonomy, not treated properly for pain, and where medical treatment affects women and men differently, even to the experience of a heart attack, the treatment protocols do not recognise this and default to male.

So it is not just politic, but right, to restrict trans claims when they might be seen to conflict with feminist campaigns.

There are ten maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the UK. Maternity is dangerous, and changes the body, often permanently. Pregnancy is a time of intense vulnerability. Women suffer pain. Writing this I fear I come across as a stodgy sort of ally, not understanding but doing her best. I have heard of the delight of bodies, in giving birth and suckling. I have heard of need for terminations. I have heard mostly tolerant, dismissive remarks about men, who will never get it, and disbelief in my own powers of empathy. The female reproductive system must be a central concern of feminism. Women are mocked and shamed into silence about their needs. I cannot expect any woman to be my ally if I do not acknowledge that. Trans men and non-binary people have the same organs, and that can be acknowledged without changing all the language- unless we can come up with particularly sensitive language which includes the trans man without alienating the cis woman.

I am wary of standing out against language like “pregnant people” rather than “pregnant women”. It is trans men’s concerns and not my own that I am minimising. And some trans men have experience of potential allies being put off by zealous policing of trans-inclusive language with accusations of transphobia. It’s not my fight. I do not want this to be an issue with opposing sides, because I need both groups as my allies.

And, delight in the Body, love of my body as me, should not blind people to the needs of trans people. Women horrified by the thought of having a mastectomy should recognise the relief and sense of at last congruence of body and self that can arise from chest masculinisation.

We are in it together. Feminist concerns are women’s concerns. Trans experience of sexism matters.

Much populist politics is about symbols. Few Brexit voters are in a position to make millions by shorting the Pound, so most will gain nothing from Brexit. But it is the symbol of their democratic desire, they are told, they are personally snubbed if it is not granted. Similarly, the woman who knows [Irony Alert!] none of those nasty trannies, with their penises, male privilege and ridiculous appearance, will be in the washroom when she goes there has gained nothing, but women are being conned into demanding this symbol that they matter, rather than actual political gains such as equal pay. When trans exclusion is offered as the symbol of women’s rights and women’s solidarity, we have to be careful. When trans rights campaigning can be made to appear like disrespect for cis women, the symbol gains power.

It’s Schrodinger’s lesbian gathering. Will they accept trans women, trans lesbians, “transbians”, me? I don’t know until I ask. Some don’t. Lots of lesbians realise that when trans rights are under attack, lesbian rights will follow. Some lesbians are enthusiastic about excluding trans women. I feel it is politic for trans women to stay out of this, to let cis lesbian allies do the work for us.

Genital preference is not transphobic. Endless harping on about it is. Lesbians should not feel the need to assert that they are not attracted to people with penises, and trans women should not give them the excuse to do so. Give it a rest. You are only going to alienate people. Trans lesbians form relationships with cis lesbians and possibly those couples could stand up for their rights without every tweet about the cotton ceiling getting dozens of angry refutations, reinforcing the sense of victimhood and conflict.

In a world where all feminist concerns were addressed, there would be full acceptance of trans people. A sense of threat, responding to actual threats from other sources, leads people to exclude us. I want not to aggravate that sense of threat. Some battles will gain us nothing. Quiet allyship might gain us acceptance. Trans women are women, but not every conclusion that flows from that may be asserted without potential allies being alienated.