What conversion practices should be unlawful?

It should be unlawful for a priest to preach that gay is sinful, if a gay person is present.

I consider the effect on the gay person. They may have been traumatised by prejudice, which makes it more difficult for them to resist that lie. The priest- imam, minister, whatever- has power in the community, and ostracism from community hurts. I would not make it criminal, but I would enact that any gay person present during an anti-gay sermon after the law came into force could claim damages for it, and allow such claims for twenty years after, rather than the accustomed three, because of the time it can take victims to recover and realise how harmful such preaching is.

Praying away the gay should be criminal. A figure with any religious authority who tries to “heal” a gay person or counsel that gay person to be celibate should be charged with a criminal offence. The gay person is never wholly voluntarily in such a situation, as they are affected by general societal homophobia or the specific homophobia of the religious body.

Note that the religious body attempts to change who the person is, not just how they act. The faculty of being sexually attracted to other humans is part of the person’s very essence. More people are bi than the culture admits, and prejudices and fears might prevent someone acknowledging an attraction, but the attraction comes from our very nature. Some people are mostly attracted to male or masculine, some mostly to female or feminine.

It’s not what you call that attraction that is the nature of the person. If you think they are a man, and they are attracted to men, you call them gay, but the attraction does not change if in fact they are trans, really a woman, and they transition. They may still be attracted to men. They may admit more attractions, as they are not suppressing their essence after transition, but even if the words we use for them, heterosexual rather than gay, change, their truth, their nature, of being attracted to men, does not.

So it is completely ridiculous to call transition “conversion therapy”. It is a complete fabrication. Unfortunately, some people hate trans so much that they are putting forward that argument- either in a hategasm where they cannot control themselves, or in the cold, deliberately deceiving way that they and their ilk might use denying climate change or evolution by natural selection.

On 15 May, Janice Turner told this lie in The Times, claiming that parents might try to transition a gay child to avoid the stigma of being called gay. She appears to believe that there is no stigma in being called trans. This is divorced from reality.

Worryingly, she claims that the government plan to include compelling someone to transition in the definition of unlawful conversion therapy. The idea that a parent could, or that even the medical professional most committed to children being able to transition would go along with it, is ridiculous. That is the lie she tells, though, in an attempt to smear Stonewall and Mermaids.

So what should be unlawful conversion therapy for trans people? The religious figure preaching against it should be subject to paying damages. The religious figure praying over a trans person should be criminal. What about psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists?

The definition here is simple: attempting to change who someone is should be unlawful. Exploring who someone is should be permissible. Robert Withers, who pretends to transphobes that he can cure trans, should never be allowed near trans people, but a therapist should be able to help a person presenting as trans to get to know themself better.

Sometimes it will be subtle, but the therapist should be aware when they are putting pressure on a person. If they are unaware, they are not qualified to be therapists, because the therapist in a position of authority can damage people by suppressing their nature, in all sorts of ways apart from LGBT. Professional bodies are capable of investigating and disciplining such therapists.

Criminal sanctions will only be available when the pressure to change is clear beyond reasonable doubt. That is enough to protect any therapist helping a client explore their relation with their gender and gender identity. So the definition of criminal conversion therapy could be quite simple: it is an offence for someone in the position of therapist to attempt to change someone’s gender identity. However much some might attempt to obscure it, there is a clear line between attempting to change someone’s nature and helping them explore it.

Becoming the whole self

Trying to make a man of myself was a betrayal. How can I heal that trauma now?

Quakers will be considering trans rights in August, and I am optimistic and pessimistic at once. Possibly we will have a revelation, as we did with equal marriage in 2009. And Quakers can be conflict-avoidant and arrogant, imagining we know best and we can reconcile conflicts. So some well-meaning Quakers might try to find a reasonable middle line between trans people and the anti-trans campaigners. And some Quakers are anti-trans campaigners, imagining themselves good and righteous and wanting all trans women out of women’s spaces, and all treatment for trans children to cease.

I must convince them trans is real.
I fear nothing I can say will be enough.

I thought, if I can show trans people cannot be other, are not making a lifestyle choice but expressing our essence, then they might accept trans rights are at least of equal importance to others’ rights. If we could be other, I would be. I fought to make a man of myself. I paid privately for aversion therapy. I asked a priest to lay hands on me to heal me.

And I am weeping helplessly, wordlessly, convulsed in my pain and grief, screaming and moaning. I fought like that to make a man of myself because the fear of death was in me.

There is a me that just wants to survive
That, with hands round my throat holding me underwater
will do anything.
There is one goal.
What I preserve of myself there is mere life.
Everything else is stripped away.

For the avoidance of doubt, this is a metaphor. Being drowned is the only metaphor that captures the fear for me. It is the small child, dependent on parents, distraught when love is taken away. And, to forgive the betrayal of ceasing to express me, becoming the male-acting automaton, I need to fully acknowledge the threat I experienced. I was forced, and it was not my fault.

That was when I was broken, as a horse is broken.
After, I would do anything to avoid being underwater.
I worked it out, so I did not need telt.
I forgave my mother’s, and the world’s, betrayals:
there is nothing to forgive.
The betrayal I cannot forgive is my own.

I want to be Perfect-me,
that being that does everything I ought to do,
want to do,
would like to do
have to do to survive
effortlessly.
Without perfect me
all I have left is failure and betrayal.

There is no perfect-me. My betrayal of myself was under pressure I could not have borne.

I take a postmodern view of Wisdom-sayings. If it has some meaning or value for me, I accept that, and I don’t care if that is its “true” or “original” meaning. If it’s a proper wisdom-saying, I doubt it could have one true meaning. If it has no meaning for me, I can let it go. Sometimes, when I loathe a wisdom saying, it can be particularly fruitful. I can’t get my head round Jamie’s idea of the “walking permission slips”, being ourselves and allowing others to become themselves too.

I know I am myself
interpreting a statute
comforting a friend in tears
cycling uphill and downhill
confident and assured, or doubting and fearful.
Always there is the sense of threat.

And there’s something there, of being fully aware of the feelings, of being in the doubt and fear without regressing to the traumatised child, who felt fear and shut down. Fear must not be a switch, to turn me off, or to beat me. It must be integrated into my adult self. So there’s another bit to my verse which is true but difficult. I don’t want to say it and it is just cheap consolation.

Oh the beauty and wonder of it
It is too much for me to bear
and it is all glorious.

The glory comes if I can feel the feelings fully, and still function. The glory is in being fully myself, feeling all my feelings. It is not easy.

Then, to a Zoom group. How is S? I saw his email. He is detained in a mental hospital, and desperate to get out. I am pretty sure he needs the anti-psychotics, and he hates them because they mute his spiritual experiences. Right at this moment I sympathise. Feeling the full range of feelings seems insane: people will be shocked and disgusted. I feel disinhibited, tempted to behave inappropriately. I want to stop twitching.

A Black woman went to Kenya when she was twenty, in a gap year, and saw a picture of Jesus Mary and Joseph. She could see it was them, the haloes proved it- and they were Black. It was the first time she had seen such a thing, just in a souvenir shop, hunting at the last moment for tatty souvenirs. It touched her deeply, and she expresses that. And I am feeling all the sense of liberation I imagine could be in that moment. I am remaking myself, closer to the image and likeness of God.

All glorious? I want to insist on that. Everything that is. All of humanity. And one says the larger the church, the more evil can hide in it. Yeah, s’pose. Possibly the glory is me, the full feeling self. And I am not alone.

This is not for everyone. My colleague was born again, and felt liberated from a life of drunken sexual promiscuity. The rules felt protective. She wanted something formal, secure and comforting. And I want something more: the Glory of God, the full glory of my whole self. To be the whole human, and give permission for others to be whole too: answering that of God in every one.

Sunday 16th: before worship, I read various stuff on conversion therapy, including a transphobic lie. I am wound up. Then in worship Dugan quotes QFP 2.12. Suddenly

I am the light. I am the Fullness.

I am the light, noticing, accepting, loving. Rather than descending into that part of me which is wound up, and stewing in it during meeting, or attempting to suppress it, I am the Light, aware of it, noticing, accepting, loving it. Noticing, accepting, loving, all of me- body, thoughts and feelings- and being in the Love. It makes me think of George Fox’s instruction to dwell in the power of life and wisdom. Ministry moves on to the conflict in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. It is hard to hear this in love. Now, there is my reaction and the other person as well, to hold in awareness and to love. Finally there’s the sound of a music keyboard through someone’s zoom account. That’s against the rules. What is he thinking? Still there can be the other person, my reaction, and me in the Light, noticing, accepting, loving all. That would be a dwelling-place of tremendous power. It is something to practice. It is a religious experience this morning, an hour of fabulous wonder, and I want to take it out into all of my life, so it becomes my normal state. I ministered, explaining some of this.

Recovering from internalised transphobia

Perhaps only the unexamined life is worth living. You are brought up by loving parents, you grow up, find a job and a partner, have children, contribute to your community, help bring up your grandchildren and perhaps meet your great-grandchildren before you die. Each life has heartache, puzzlement, difficulty and loss, but that would be a life well lived. I envy it because I have no children.

I wanted to do a meaning of life post. I wanted to articulate the value of my life, because it has value. My start was with the life I do not have. Communities can be oppressive, and can change so completely during a lifetime that someone in a strong supportive community at marriage could be unmoored by old age- I have both an intense desire to be Normal and resentment that I am not, and a desire to attack that Normal as illusory even for those who most approximate it. Starting writing helps me understand who I am, and find what is behind my conscious thought.

A woman who had been bleeding for twelve years touched Jesus and her bleeding healed. Jesus turned, saw her, and said “Take heart, daughter: your faith has made you well”. Matthew does not mention it, but Luke and Mark say Jesus felt power go out of him. Someone explained this: a woman seen as unclean, so outcast, who had no business touching anyone, acts as if she is not outcast, and is healed of her outcast status.

No, that wasn’t how he explained it. That’s me explaining it in a way that omits what is the most important thing about it for me now: when he explained it, I felt a weight was lifted from me: I am that woman. I have outcast status. Come into my full humanity or power and I have it no longer.

In that moment I felt a weight lift from me. A day later I am trying to recapture the feeling. I want to make it permanent. Loving acceptance helps: then I was with people, now I am alone. I was on Zoom, but that counts.

This is a blog. I am allowed for my thoughts to be inchoate, to start typing, find my thoughts wandering, publish it anyway. To struggle towards what would be the first sentence of an article. To reassure myself that it is true, and I mean it, and bring myself to write it, and note the process:

The meaning of my life is recovering from internalised transphobia.

Or, possibly,

The meaning of my life is recovering from my ingrained sense of worthlessness, a lot of which is internalised transphobia.

If I can do this, see how I am doing this, and communicate it to others in such a way as they might see their own value, then my life has value. If I can do this, only a little, even so I do not fully step into my power, even though I tell nobody, no one sees, and no one else benefits,

my life has beauty and meaning and value simply because I exist. Everything that is, is holy, as William Blake says.

I am not sure I have that first sentence yet.

And, how does the story help anyone struggling with self-rejection? I don’t want to make a dogmatic statement about that, but a suggestion. There is a power of Love which loves and values you. Possibly if you are completely alone you can access that love within yourself and heal yourself. Possibly some other person will love you, and communicate that so it gets through to you. I am thinking of an observation a woman made, that changed my perception of myself for the better, and my friend was talking about that particular story and not particularly addressing me and I took what he said and applied it to me-

I am just getting more confused.
Take from this what you will.
Recovery from self-loathing is difficult.
Recovery from self-loathing is worthwhile.

Others have said things which I have seen the value in, but not seen the value in for me. Years ago a hypnotherapist told me to say “I am loved, loving and lovable”. I have only really accepted that intellectually. Periodically I get the phrase out and consider it.

I want to heal myself.
I want to heal everybody.

I saw two wise men, filmed, talking of wisdom, and I thought, I want to be the third there, talking equally with them. I wanted it more than anything.

British Government to ban conversion therapy?

The British government is not going to ban conversion therapy. Instead they are going to start a consultation. They could look round the world at legal bans, or look at what expert bodies have published, but instead they are going to ask religious bodies their thoughts about religious freedom, that is, freedom to preach that LGBT is Abomination unto the Lord, and the usual nutcase transphobes about how trans medical treatment is “conversion therapy” against lesbian and gay people.

They are also writing, still, about “conversion therapy”. It is not therapy! Sometimes it is pseudo-therapy, aping some aspects of therapy- there might be a psychologist, talking to a person about their thoughts and feelings- but it is the opposite of therapy, as it seeks to prevent the person expressing their true self, and seeks to force them into a conventional understanding of what it is to be a man or woman. And sometimes, it avoids the appearance of therapy, as when a priest laid hands on me and prayed to God that I stop cross-dressing. That is an abuse of power, and should be criminal. The pretence that an attack on someone’s core being is “therapy” or “the Love of God” is one of its most damaging aspects.

It is anti-SOGI conversion practices. SOGI, sexual orientation and gender identity, should be clear enough for anyone to understand or look up. Call it what it is.

Liz Truss started with a lie: “As a global leader on LGBT rights”. Most advances on LGBT rights have come about under a Labour government, and equal marriage would have been defeated by Tory rebels without Labour support. Ten years later, the British government is definitely falling behind. So, no, it has not “always been committed to stamping out” anti-SOGI conversion practices, or it would have done so by now.

She writes of “the coercive… practice of conversion therapy”. I had two experiences, of having a psychiatrist and psychologist attempt to stop me cross dressing, and having a priest lay hands on me to cure me. I sought them out. In that moment, they were voluntary, not coercive. The coercion had happened many years before. My apparent free choice of conversion therapy was from programming. My recovery is proceeding many years after.

How will they “protect the medical profession”? The medical profession have ethics rules against conversion practices.

I am bothered about “upholding religious freedom”. Children are taken to worship, or to coaching by religious bodies, and when there are children present such religious bodies should not be inveighing against gay people or trans people, because they may damage gay or trans children present. Ideally, they should not be preaching a heteronormative family structure of Mummies and Daddies. The Rev Tina Beardsley explains some debate on conversion practices in the Church of England.

Even adults who have bought into religious structures, and find community there, or fear ostracism if they come out, are intensely vulnerable before homophobic or transphobic preaching. I do not want it argued that a gay man can decide to be celibate for religious reasons and is entitled to support in that from his church.

The religious bodies have the power, and LGBT+ folk are hurt. Where people realise they have been damaged by that religious power, they should be able to claim compensation for that damage.

When will this happen? After a consultation. The trans consultation was announced in 2017, launched a year later, and only this month the Government acted- to reduce the costs of getting a GRC, slightly, but keep the greatest cost, that of getting medical evidence. Then, “as soon as parliamentary time allows”. Don’t hold your breath.

Meanwhile Liz Truss and her rabble preach hate against trans people.

The Times transphobia in April

We know The Times is transphobic, but seeing how obsessed it is with transphobia is breathtaking. These are the articles in April:

9 April: our pick of the books you may have missed includes a “fearless” “bleak” book warning of the “craze” for medical treatment for trans children. Continue reading

Is transphobia as bad as racism?

What turns speech into “hate speech”? What should prevent it?

Ruth Smeeth wrote in the Times that an employment tribunal case had placed anti-trans campaigning in the same category as “dangerous extremism” which threatens society. She claimed anti-trans campaigning was not the equivalent to racist hate speech.

Anti-trans campaigning is often couched in terms of safety. But then so can racism be. 1960s America had unashamed campaigners for segregation, who would argue in terms of safety. Black men were lynched after being accused of sexual crime against white women.

Homophobia can claim to work for the safety of children too. Section 28 of the Local Government Act, which was in effect from 1988 to 2003, prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” and prevented teachers from acknowledging that people could be gay. This tortured gay children. Yet in 1999 in Parliament Jill Knight claimed that “children at school [were] being encouraged into homosexuality and being taught that a normal family with mummy and daddy was outdated.”

Prejudice is also couched in terms of difference. Racists argue that Black people are different from white people. That is the basis of the “great replacement” conspiracy theory. In the same way, trans-excluders argue that differences between trans women and cis women are in some way relevant, so that we should be excluded from shop changing rooms.

The classic free speech defence is that wrong speech will be subjected to the light of truth, and be refuted. This ignores the question of power. Governments of the Right have encouraged racism and homophobia, and governments of the Left have moved to sanction them. Now, racist views are encouraged by the Murdoch media empire, because these views tend to preserve hierarchy and their own power.

Theresa May described her “hostile environment” policy- making sure immigrants without a current visa or right to remain could not work or rent, expelling them from homeless shelters, closing their bank accounts. This, combined with the Home Office’s restrictions on evidence and incompetence led to the Windrush scandal.

The Smeeth article is not an attempt to justify anti-trans campaigning or a discussion of the issues. It uses the word “dangerous” but does not say what the danger is. People who agree with it will be prevented from thinking: they will see the word “dangerous”, agree that danger must be bad, and so conclude that their anti-trans campaigning is unobjectionable. Smeeth uses the word to describe the ET decision- the danger is of restricting speech- but also dangerous extremism, where speech should be restricted.

At its core is an assumption that all good people agree “racist hate speech” is bad, but anti-trans campaigning is not equally bad.

Smeeth claims a right to say who needs or deserves protection. Minority ethnic people need and deserve protection. I agree. She claims, though she gives no reason, that trans people do not deserve the same protection.

Teaching pseudo-scientific claims of racial difference, even where backed up by selected data by tenured professors, creates a hostile environment for Black people in universities. It’s not a question of how language is used or whether it imitates dispassion. The cold hate of Jill Knight is as damaging as the hot hate of the Nazis shouting “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville.

Racists, homophobes and transphobes can easily find powerful backers and ready audiences. They make money from their speech, just as climate change deniers do. Smeeth’s claim that trans people are entitled to less protection than racialised people or gay people makes it easier to persecute us, and drive us out from ordinary society. All transphobia, from debates in university common rooms and Quaker meetings, to assaults on trans people, is linked: it shares a view that we might be in some way dangerous, or not deserve protection, that we have less value than the normal people.

Who is trans?

Are you trans because of what you do, who you are, or what you think you are?

What do trans people do? We spend at least some time, possibly all the time, expressing ourselves in our true gender. We seek medical treatment, hormones and surgery. We talk with other people about being trans. But most trans women can remember a time when we never expressed ourselves female- either before we did so for the first time, or between expressing female as children and expressing female as adults. Some trans children are accepted by their parents, and do not have this experience.

Some trans women, like me, try hard to make men of ourselves, and might deny we were trans while doing so. Now, I would say I was trans in denial at the time. So some people I would call trans, if I had a God’s eye view, would deny it.

I would call them trans because I don’t like the idea of becoming trans. It’s an idea transphobes use to belittle trans people, who they say “wake up one day and decide they are the other sex”.

So what do trans people do? Some of us live as trans taking hormones and have had surgery, and some of us live in the assigned gender and deny being trans. The behaviour is the same as the whole population, though the proportions are different. But statisticians can only count people who will admit they are trans.

They might also count people who answer that they are trans because they think it is a stupid question and they want to mess with the statisticians. Some of those may be trans in denial.

Transphobia affects all of us. I spent time trying to make a man of myself because of internalised transphobia, feelings of disgust and contempt at being trans. I still have some internalised transphobia now.

You are trans because of who you are, so in theory a psychiatrist could question a person and identify transsexual traits even if they claimed not to be transsexual. That happened to me. I saw the psychiatrist because I would cross-dress for a time, and then throw out all my women’s clothes. I thought it was bearable to cross-dress alone, in my home, as I had a stressful job and if that was a way I could relax, it is completely harmless. And I thought it was reasonable to think I am a man therefore it is shameful to cross-dress, and I will not. I could not bear oscillating between these positions several times a year. It caused me great distress.

That was the internalised transphobia. So, I would call anyone who cross-dresses occasionally trans, especially if they want the term. They may, later, become staunch transmedicalists denying the term trans or the rights of trans women to anyone who is not at least on the gender clinic waiting list, but right now they only cross dress in private now and then.

Or, you could be trans because you talk to others about it online, without any cross-gender behaviour other than that. I call such people trans if they claim the term. They are not expressing themselves in their true gender offline, or going into single-sex spaces. They are no threat to anyone.

You are trans because of who you are, but no-one might know if you deny it. So you are trans because you think you are. No-one who thinks they are trans is not trans.

Some people detransition. They remain trans. Something prompted them to transition. They may regret it, and particularly any medical treatment, but that does not stop them being trans. They may retransition.

A trans woman who only spends part of the time expressing female might go into a women’s loo when dressed female. She harms no-one else. She may be checking out whether transition is right for her- because transphobia is oppressive, and she may be unable to bear it. So I want everyone dressed as women able to use women’s loos. The ones who look most weird, or shifty, or mannish, are the ones who are most in need of kindness and courtesy: and because they are doing something so brave, the most entitled to it.

Natalie Bird, ordinary transphobe

Natalie Bird perfectly illustrates how transphobes may drown in their own hatred, and become divorced from reality. She joined the Lib Dems in 2015, and stood for the local council. In November 2019 Bird was barred from holding or standing for election to any party office for ten years, because of her transphobia, or for arguing against party policy. She denies being transphobic, claiming she simply supports women’s rights.

Now, her discipline by the LibDems consumes her. She must have had some reason to join- its environmental policies, perhaps, its record in local government, or its longstanding commitment to women’s rights. She wanted to work for it. Now she wants to attack it, only because she disagrees with the party on the issue of trans rights.

She is trying to raise ÂŁ55,000 to sue the party. When I looked, she had raised ÂŁ6,715. She is an ordinary woman, of no particular interest, yet her transphobe campaign was reported in The Times. What has she to say about it?

She claims it is a matter of protecting women’s rights, but the LibDems strongly support women’s rights. They seek equal representation by women in their “Campaign for Gender Balance”. They take women’s rights seriously. They emphasise their policies on violence against women and girls, the gender price gap, and period poverty. Once, perhaps, Bird supported them on these things. Now, she claims the party is not supporting women’s rights. The issue of trans inclusion, for her, trumps all the work they do for women’s representation and women’s needs.

She claims that once trans women are included, women won’t be able to fight for any women’s rights issue. I presume she thinks all the gains will be taken by trans women. Possibly there might be a trans woman on a Scottish public board, but violence against women will hardly become invisible just because violence against trans women is included.

She claims excluding trans women from shop changing rooms is a child safeguarding issue. Of all the ways a child abuser might approach children, dressing as a woman and going into shop changing rooms is perhaps the least likely. Most child abuse is by family, and family friends. Picking on a safeguarding issue stops her thinking. She simply gets angry: What about the Children? Her arguments make no sense at all, but she has gone beyond that: they are satisfying to her emotionally, and part of her “sense of self”.

She brought up the scary issue of penises- “male equipment”. Someone asked her, “When did you last see anyone’s genitals in a shop changing room or public toilet?” She could not answer. But this will not stop her scaremongering about trans women’s penises in the future.

The LibDems have eleven MPs, and seven of them are women. All of them support trans rights. Bird alleges they are all too scared to challenge policy on trans rights, and claims misogyny. Actually, the misogyny here is claiming that women MPs do not have the self-confidence to say what they mean and what they believe. Women can be scared to speak up. Hannah Bardell, now an MP, did not come out as lesbian until 2012, when she was 36. But now she is an MP she is no longer scared, and she stands up for trans rights.

Bird might have been a useful campaigner for the LibDems, putting out leaflets, canvassing, perhaps even standing for the council in a winnable seat. Instead she obsessively attacks the party. Rupert Murdoch is laughing at women like her, his dupes. She does not risk prison like Rob Hoogland, but otherwise her life and her community work are turned upside down, by her obsessive transphobia.

Yearly Meeting and Trans people

At our Yearly Meeting Quakers in Britain will consider “acknowledging and welcoming gender-diverse people”. This will be

early steps in a longer journey. As a starting point, we hope to name the places where there is unity, acknowledge that there are trans people in Quaker communities and state that they are welcome.

We are enjoined to respect our diversity and “take care over how you communicate”, and told bullying will not be tolerated, either from unconscious patterns of behaviour or deliberately: people breaching the guidelines may be excluded. Immediately I feared being excluded, which I hope is just a paranoid reaction on my part. I don’t know it has ever been seen necessary to warn against bullying before. I agree bad behaviour is more likely online than in person, and Quakers are not immune.

And, the distress felt by people affected may result in hasty words. I hope this could be handled with sympathy rather than condemnation. Stating that trans people are welcome seems innocuous, and minimal, but do we trans people feel it? I know trans people who have been in dispute with meetings. A cis woman Friend, with whom I reconciled after years, suggested trans women were like teenage girls. Well, possibly. We are in adulthood coping with unfamiliar hormones which change us, and coping with the loss of male privilege passing as straight. Even if that trans person who left was being totally unreasonable, could love have found a better way?

There is huge hurt around gender diversity. I know of trans people, allies, and sex-based rights campaigners who have felt unable to continue worshipping with their meeting or with Friends.

The hurt is not always expressed as hurt. Arguments for reducing trans rights may be couched in impersonal, superficially rational terms, without expressing underlying hurt, which I believe is the trauma of male privilege and violence. I am aware of male violence against women even among Quakers. Asking people to express their hurt makes them vulnerable, so requires a space where they feel safe. Rooms full of Quakers do not automatically feel safe for everyone.

We do not share language. The concept of “sex-based” rights is an attempt to exclude trans women from women’s spaces by stating we change gender but not sex. Sex-based rights campaigners can demand the end of trans rights without mentioning trans people, because of their definition of “woman”. There is a campaign against “medicalising children”- that is, to prevent trans children having treatment they, their parents and specialist doctors consider necessary.

I am glad documents for YM use the term “gender diverse”- in my experience sex-based rights campaigners are often particularly different from feminine gender stereotypes, and have a great deal in common with nonbinary people and trans men. However, they might say all women are oppressed by those stereotypes.

We do not share facts. Trans women have been in women’s spaces for decades, and with legal entitlement since the Equality Act 2010. Some campaigners argue the law is far more restrictive.

A Friends Quarterly article included the claim that most trans women do not have genital operations, based on a false interpretation of the source it cited. The scary idea of penises in women’s spaces is used to incite fear of trans women.

I have seen a minute claiming that adolescent children are making life-changing decisions, that is, getting hormone treatment they will later regret. In fact, since November 2020 trans children have been refused hormone treatment their doctors recommended, because of a high court decision.

If you include Quakers who support trans rights, like me, and those Quakers who are anti-trans campaigners, there is no unity. Individual Quakers do not have a right to “stand in the way” of a Yearly Meeting decision if most Friends are convinced it is a spiritual leading; but a decision can hardly exclude those most involved or concerned in the issue.

Unity might have to go back to the most basic principles. Quakers value Equality. But we do not all agree about Privilege. White straight men with professional careers can get nervous when the word is mentioned, as if it were an attack on them. Privilege is usually unconscious. Stevie Krayer’s article in The Friend gives an example: she had an immediate reaction she then analysed, and found it was unconsciously racist. Quakers may have such reactions without performing the necessary analysis, and, believing their adherence to the testimony to equality is sufficient protection, not see their unconscious prejudice. Society is awash with racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. People, even Quakers, take it into themselves unconsciously.

The sex-based rights campaigners would argue I have male privilege. In a negotiation, I would not want to concede that. But a Meeting for Worship is not a negotiation, but coming together in Love under Spirit.

I love meeting on Zoom. I have experienced gathered meetings on Zoom. Some Friends have not found Zoom meeting nourishing and sustaining, and miss meeting in person; when meeting for worship in person has been discontinued some have not worshipped on Zoom.

God moves in mysterious ways. I trust the process of meeting. I know that for there to be progress, people must come prepared to be changed. Common-sense, rational answers will get nowhere.

Beliefs and Behaviour

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is arguing that transphobic beliefs should be protected, and no-one should be sacked for transphobia. I hope the Centre for Global Development (CGD) win in the Employment Appeal Tribunal. Why should they? What “beliefs” should be protected from discrimination, and when do they become behaviour for which it is reasonable to dismiss someone?

The sacked transphobe claims she was sacked for believing “Sex is real”, but that is ridiculous. There must be something more. If she simply believed that sex is real, like almost all the population including most trans people, she would not have been sacked.

It’s not just a belief that sex is real, it is a belief that this affects trans women and the way she sees us and interacts with us in a particular way. I believe sex is real, and I believe that trans women are women. But it’s not just that she believes trans women are men, it is that she believes this matters. She would hardly have got to the stage of losing her job if she did not. She believes that access to women’s spaces should be for women as she defines the word, so that trans women should not be admitted. She believes that she is entitled to misgender people. She used male pronouns to refer to a nonbinary person.

There has to be some behaviour for others to realise she holds a belief. For example, she wrote, “Trans women are men, and should be respected and protected as men”. She means, we should be excluded from all women’s spaces, and that some other way of accommodating us should be found. On 2 September 2018 she tweeted, “women and girls lose out on privacy, safety and fairness if males are allowed into changing rooms”. So when buying a skirt I would have to go to the men’s department to try it on.

In October 2018 some staff at the CGD complained that her tweets were transphobic. The employer investigated the complaints. She claimed she would respect “anyone’s definition of their gender identity”. Would she object if she saw a trans woman enter a women’s loo?

After she parted ways with the CGD, the transphobe entered a “very bitter” dispute with Gregor Murray, after misgendering them. This indicates how her beliefs affect her actions. She campaigns for a radical change in trans rights, so that trans women are excluded from the women’s spaces we have been in informally for decades and under the Equality Act since 2010.

Protection from discrimination on the grounds of belief does not mean that an employer has to tolerate any action by the employee. You can’t be sacked for being Christian, but if a Christian baker refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple their employer would be entitled to sack them.

The transphobe wanted the CGD to publish her screeds claiming trans women are men, or should be excluded from women’s spaces. The 2 September 2018 tweet argues for stripping away my rights. The transphobe’s contract involved writing essays for the CGD, some of which still appear on its website, above her own name.

Even if her belief is protected, that tweet is behaviour which could have brought the CGD into disrepute with some of its clients, which entitled it to sever links with her. For example, Kristie Higgs was sacked, reasonably and without unlawful discrimination, for facebook posts.

However, that does not address the question of whether the belief should be protected, if it is not expressed in a public, objectionable way.

To be protected, a belief “must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others”. If the transphobe’s “belief” is protected, that is a limit on my rights.

I have a right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of sex. The European Court of Justice in 1996, and the US Supreme Court in 2020, held that discrimination on the grounds of transgender is discrimination on the grounds of sex.

I have a right to transition and thereafter to be treated as being of the sex to which I have transitioned. That was the result of Christine Goodwin’s case.

The Employment Judge wrote that the belief “involves” violating trans people’s dignity. The transphobe claims that it did not, that she was quite capable of treating a trans woman with courtesy, which would involve not misgendering them. However she believes that I cannot honestly describe myself as a woman. That belief is not worthy of respect. It violates my dignity.

If the transphobe wins her case, it may be a distinction without a difference. Transphobes can still be dismissed if the employer considers their campaigning brings the employer into disrepute or offends the employer’s customers. The transphobe would not have had her contract terminated merely for a belief: it was terminated because of her obnoxious tweeting. Some employers would find that tweeting offensive, and end her contract. Some employers would not.