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.

Non-binary recognition

Non-binary recognition? “Soon”, promises the UK government. As it has taken a year from the announcement to start consulting on trans gender recognition, that might be a long time. We want people who identify [as non-binary] to be able to live discrimination-free lives in accordance with who they believe their true selves to be, says the consultation, but not when.

Non-binary recognition is a complex issue, with many potential implications for the law and public-service provision, the consultation says. They are quite simple. Non-binary people are not protected from discrimination, and they should be. It would be simple enough for most toilets open to the public to include non-binary facilities, either by making all the toilets all-gender, or by making a disabled people’s toilet all-gender.

Maternity leave and paternity leave need to be equalised. People could be recorded on birth certificates as parents rather than “mother” or “father”.

But we might not know what sex people were!!!

If you can’t tell, it’s none of your business. Stop trying to pigeonhole people. Sex is not a reliable indicator of other qualities or characteristics. What sex someone is is only important if you want to have sex together.

Many forms ask your sex, and that is not necessary unless services should be different or sex-segregated. Admin and IT systems usually assume only two genders, but these could be changed within a reasonable time- certainly the next time the system is overhauled. Marriage and civil partnership should be open to all kinds of couples, including non-binary parties.

Purely on the issue of gender recognition, it is difficult to get evidence of living as non-binary, because documents don’t show what that means. Non-binary people don’t always seek out a gender dysphoria diagnosis. So, a gender recognition system which recognised non-binary might not insist on those things. But, it should not insist on those things anyway.

The current requirement for applicants to make a statutory declaration that they intend to live in their acquired gender until death: we would like to hear respondents’ views on whether they think non-binary people should be asked to commit to living permanently in a particular gender. What does it mean to live in a particular gender? You can normally spot someone who is “living as a woman”, but there is no one way of expressing as non-binary. Anyone may dress androgynously if they wish. So you are living as non-binary if you tell people you are non-binary. How people express that will develop over time.

The question now asked is,

20. Currently UK law does not recognise any gender other than male and female. Do you think that there need to be changes to the Gender Recognition Act to accommodate individuals who identify as non-binary? If you would like to, please expand more upon your answer.

Yes; but they should not be allowed to delay reform of the GRA for binary trans people.

The Scottish consultation gave alternatives for non-binary recognition:

  1. Changes to administrative forms.
  2. the Book of Non-Binary Identity, a register of those who wished to be recorded as non-binary.
  3. limited identity document and record changes, such as passports and driving licences.
  4. self-ID. The consultation listed other legal issues this would raise.
  5. an incremental approach, adopting options 1,2 and 3 and moving towards full recognition
  6. seeking amendment of the Equality Act.

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.

 ♥♥♥

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.

Becoming women

We know that gender recognition reform will not affect anyone apart from trans people. We know that it is a minor reform, only affecting people who transition, like I did. There will be no great influx of men in women’s spaces, no threat to refuges or rape crisis centres, no false statistics showing a huge rise in violent crime by “women”. There is nothing to worry about except the authoritarians being emboldened by the confected dispute to spread hatred against trans people. However, there is a confusion in the law between the Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act, which if interpreted in a particular way would stop trans folk with a gender recognition certificate from complaining of discrimination at all, whatever was done to us.

The problem is s9 of the Gender Recognition Act. Where a full gender recognition certificate is issued to a person, the person’s gender becomes for all purposes the acquired gender (so that, if the acquired gender is the male gender, the person’s sex becomes that of a man and, if it is the female gender, the person’s sex becomes that of a woman). So the law says my sex and my gender are alike Female. It goes on, Subsection (1) does not affect things done, or events occurring, before the certificate is issued; but it does operate for the interpretation of enactments passed, and instruments and other documents made, before the certificate is issued (as well as those passed or made afterwards). So when interpreting the Equality Act, I am female.

The argument is that after I get the GRC, I am a woman. If I am a woman for the purposes of the Equality Act, then I cannot be excluded from women’s spaces. I am not a trans woman, I am simply a woman.

The Women and Equalities Committee obtained counsel’s opinion on the effects of changing the law. Read it if you like. I tried to understand it, then decided that was too much like hard work.

I can get read as trans. The sections which allow me to sue for damages if someone discriminates against me because of that protect me because I have “undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex”. The same definition allows me to be excluded from women’s spaces, if that is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. If I am simply a woman, rather than a transsexual person, I can’t be excluded from women’s spaces as a transsexual person, but because I can, without legal sanction, be discriminated against as a transsexual person I can be excluded because the person in charge of those spaces thinks I am transsexual. Even though I am not in law. Her space would be for some women and not for others, as she saw fit. I can’t then claim discrimination on the ground of sex, as I am the same sex as the people she lets in.

If I can claim to be a person who has undergone a process, etc, then she can only exclude me if it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, which I abbreviate as PMoALA. If I am a woman by the GRA, and am no longer a “person who has undergone a process”, then she can exclude me just because she wants to.

I would rather be protected as a trans person than not. That interpretation would make sense to me.

So I don’t know what the Gender Recognition Act is for. At the time, it governed marriages, so that I could marry a man, but now I can marry a man or a woman (if I can find one willing); and it governed pensions, but now the European Court of Justice says I could get a pension on women’s rules without a GRC. Women’s rules are the same as men’s. I could claim under the equal pay laws if a man was paid more than me for the same job.

Gender recognition is a symbol, that the law calls me a woman. It does not affect my rights at all. It would be ridiculous if it stripped me of the right to claim damages for discrimination, and so it cannot mean that unless that is the plain, unavoidable meaning of the words.

Don’t out me

He has held the core of the atomic bomb in his hands. “What? You touched plutonium?” Well, it was behind a screen, with insulated gauntlets bolted to the glass. And he had a radiation monitor. He wants to tell his stories. His Bentley has the gear shift on the right of the driver, which is unusual in a British car. Someone remarked on this to a friend of his, who had the perfect riposte-

“You mean, other cars have it on the left?”

He waited years to use that line, G tells me. He also tells me what he told the Archbishop he would say to St Peter if he was wrong to disbelieve in the afterlife: “I have lived my life as well as I can, and if that isn’t good enough for you, I don’t want in to your Heaven.” We agree. Of course. And he met John Paul Getty, who was a fascinating conversationalist.

I really like this gentleman.

As we are getting up to leave, P says to me “Say, ‘I want to be a vegetarian’, like you did last week. You sound just like Miss Fritton“. Which would be less objectionable if just after introducing me to his friend Sophie today he had not said the same thing. I am angry, and turn to G: was he aware that I am trans, I would ask. But G has turned about and walked quickly, about ten yards away, so as to be not part of this conversation.

I am particularly peeved at this because G is a humanist and P a Creationist, and Richard saw fit to bring that up. I disapprove of Creationism. It makes Christianity ridiculous. But we all know the arguments on both sides, and are not going to convince anyone to change their mind today. Bringing that up is shitstirring, so I rebuked Richard. I do not want a pile-on, I want a civilised conversation over tea and cake in the sunshine. I could have brought up P’s idiosyncrasy. That was a peculiarly autistic cackle he emitted, high pitched, loud, utterly unselfconscious. And this lack of awareness of others’ feelings is pretty autistic too- yet one can learn social rules. Don’t out people. It’s not difficult.

Probably G was aware that I am trans. I sound like Miss Fritton, after all, and he has been engaging me in conversation for half an hour. He is a highly intelligent man.

I want P to laugh his autistic laugh freely and without anyone objecting. I want people to know that his autism is part of the glorious diversity of humanity, and that it is nothing to be ashamed of. I am sad these things need to be said: when I say, “I am not ashamed of being trans”- needing to say that shows that I have been, and have worked to free himself of the burden of shame. Part of getting there is consciously not remarking on these things- P is autistic, I am trans, deliberately we think to ourselves, No-one should mind. Eventually, no-one will.

The church is beautiful. The misericords are 15th century: I taught Sophie what a misericord is. She looked at them and we chatted, friendly-like. She did not snub me because I am one of those people. Being trans is not a bad thing. The rood screen is 15th century too, and there is a Chantry chapel adjoining. I don’t think she had known what a rood screen is. Richard told me that one of the crests facing the nave is Thomas Becket’s, and that the stained glass showed the nine orders of angels from Pseudo-Dionysius. After they had gone, I waited in the churchyard for the sun to come round, to shine on the barefoot warrior. Perhaps coming back on an overcast day would show greater dedication to photography.

Trans children and adolescents in Australia

Australian doctors affirm trans children, and show why affirmation works: Trans or gender diverse children with good health and wellbeing who are supported and affirmed by their family, community, and educational environments may not require any additional psychological support beyond occasional and intermittent contact with relevant professionals in the child’s life, such as the family’s general practitioner or school supports. Others need a skilled clinician working with the family, to help them support their child. Where there are other mental health problems, they should be treated together with GD.

Parents who do not support their child’s transition may make their mental health worse. “Do no harm” does not mean refusing gender-affirming treatment:

Withholding of gender affirming treatment is not considered a neutral option, and may exacerbate distress in a number of ways including increasing depression, anxiety and suicidality, social withdrawal, as well as possibly increasing chances of young people illegally accessing medications.

Social transition improves emotional functioning. It should be the child’s decision, and may be just at particular times or particular places. Social transition brings trans children’s depression, anxiety and self-worth to the same level as cis children’s. Doctors may need to be advocates, telling schools this is what the child needs. An endocrinologist should see the child before puberty starts.

Children referred in adolescence need different treatment. The child may have spent a long time coming to understand their gender dysphoria, and considering how to explain it to parents, so will want immediate support and medical help, but a parent might see this as sudden, and have difficulty adjusting. The child needs a comprehensive exploration of the adolescent’s early developmental history, history of gender identity development and expression, emotional functioning, intellectual and educational functioning, peer and other social relationships, family functioning as well as immediate and extended family support.

Once there is significant breast growth and menstruation in a trans boy, puberty suppression is not recommended. Gender dysphoria around menstruation can be reduced with norethisterone. Testosterone in trans boys may produce irreversible facial and body hair growth and scalp hair loss. Deepening of the voice is irreversible. Clitoral enlargement and vaginal atrophy may be reversible, but this is unknown.

Oestrogen in trans girls will reduce muscle mass and strength, soften skin, and decrease libido and spontaneous erections. These effects are probably reversible. Breast growth is irreversible. The testicles will shrink, and sperm production decrease: it is unknown if these effects are reversible.

Teenagers vary in their maturity, and ability to make decisions with complex risks and benefits. However delaying hormone treatment in trans girls means increased masculinisation of face and body, and suppressing puberty without starting stage 2 treatment (gender-affirming hormones) can weaken bones. Refusing treatment reduces an adolescent’s sense of their own autonomy and agency.

GPs should give an initial assessment, including of the family support and functioning, and advise on the effect of treatment on sexuality, sexual pleasure, and fertility.

A trans boy may have chest masculinisation surgery as young as 16. There should be a joint decision with child, parents and clinicians coming to consensus, taking account of the child’s maturity. However the guidelines advise delaying genital surgery until adulthood, because it will make the patient sterile, and may reduce sexual pleasure and interest.

The New Zealand Adolescent Health Survey suggested that 1.2% of adolescents identify as transgender. The guidelines suggest that this means referrals will continue to rise. Only an atmosphere of support and acceptance will enable a child to make a proper decision.

Guidelines pdf.

Trans medicine and storytelling

Transition is a process of self-discovery, self acceptance and self-expression. How should society react to that? By celebrating and facilitating it.

Doctors should consider gender dysphoria, the discomfort arising from not fitting the assigned gender. They should treat any underlying psychological conditions, any resultant anxiety and depression, and help the patient consider all options for gender expression. Gender dysphoria- that feeling of extreme discomfort and alienation- exists.

Medicine proceeds, perhaps especially in this case, on stories. Until 1912 doctors did more harm than good to their patients: natural healing processes and placebo accounted for most of the cures. The doctor sees a distressed patient who wants a solution to their problems, which has sufficient scientific rigour to convince them. Once a solution is proposed, other patients are aware of it, and consider whether it might apply to them. A cold can be cured, by waiting, but epilepsy or arthritis can only be managed. Perhaps no-one has good mental health, but most people can function reasonably well.

People have been expressing themselves as the opposite sex for centuries, part time and full time. The chance of getting that accepted by society through medical confirmation was blissful, and scientific stories of brain difference grew up with mythic stories of being a “woman trapped in a man’s body”. Stories grew to counter the narrative, which people share to enjoy a communal sense of disgust against the Other: stories of mutilation and falsehood- yet still we transition.

David Brooks writes of two kinds of stories- myths, from Athens, of solitary heroes overcoming challenges, showing competitive virtues of strength, toughness and prowess; parables, from Jerusalem, of ordinary people together, showing co-operative virtues of charity, faithfulness, forgiveness and commitment. The two cultures are not so rigorously divided, but the point stands. To some feminists those co-operative virtues can seem too much to fit the “feminine” stereotype used by the Patriarchy to hold women down. Then trans women are the enemy, enforcing feminine subjugation. No group of people can exist without co-operative virtues, not a city, company or family. All human beings have co-operative and competitive virtues, and in maturity learn to balance both. More competitive societies, failing to value co-operation, increase stress and depression.

The story of the “true transsexual”, who transitioned gender roles with hormones and surgery, enabled me to accept being myself. I could shed the poisonous male act. But that male act was also a story, about how men should be, not fitting real people in the real world, and the “true transsexual” story was too restrictive, demanding too high a cost. Now we have stories of “non-binary” people, who do not fit either gender stereotype and play between.

Trans men are confronted with the story of the butch lesbian, fearlessly being herself without the need to pretend to be a man. And some women present as butch lesbians, but carry regret and a sense of incompleteness: does that arise because they are really trans, or because men are treated with greater respect than butch lesbians?

The way we present to other people is a story we tell about ourselves to others. We judge others constantly, and try to be seen in particular ways. Do you dress casually, fashionably, stylishly, scruffily? How do you hold yourself? Do you look others in the eye? Jewellery sends signals.

Transition is hard to stop once you start. I went to work presenting male, but went out at the weekend expressing myself female. I found I could do that in straight spaces as well as queer spaces, in the concert hall then the supermarket as well as the gay village, and the male act at work seemed more and more stifling and unbearable. Transition was a story, a solution which took hard work and determination but would complete my liberation. It would take time, but I knew the solution, I was clear about where I was going. How could I resist? The doctors I chose went along with that story. Protests from outside, particularly cries of disgust and derision, only strengthened my resolve- of course, when seeking to realise my true self, there would be carpers and mockers: think the chromatic woodwind “critics” in Strauss, Ein Heldenleben.

After transition, I embarked on a yet more perilous quest, to find who I am, as a human being. From a point of not knowing, I find what motivates me, what repulses me, what gives me joy. I come to trust my humanity, my gifts and qualities, as good in themselves. Why would I be so hard on myself? I am still escaping that oppression.

The story of transition, the person liberating their true self, is not countered by attempts to undermine it. The carpers and critics may attack its scientific rigour, but it retains enough to convince us. It has too much staying power to be blown away. It works. It liberates us, and insofar as more work of liberation remains to be done after, we only see that after completing transition.

A woman told of years with the psychiatrists demanding whether she was sure she wanted a vaginoplasty. Are you sure you will not regret losing your penis? Of course she was. It was not the right question. I want to produce, here on my blog, a more satisfying story which will supersede the other, the difference between solid gold and gilded lead clear to all, and now I am groping. Unknowing has something to do with it, the way the person is crushed into the male box. Who are you, really? What stops you knowing yourself?

Transition works. Give us something better, and we will choose it. Non-binary identity works for people who identify as non-binary. Making transition easier, stopping the carping, might reduce our desperation to prove ourselves. Transition would be less of a big deal. It would be recognised as one way people can be. That would reduce its emotional heat.

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.

The Equality Act and trans people

These are the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 referring to trans people. There is extensive guidance and notes.

What trans people are protected? Anyone who intends to transition to the other gender as a binary trans person. Non-binary people are not protected. The Act refers to “gender reassignment” but “transsexual persons”, so gender and sex are confused.

7 Gender reassignment

(1)A person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if the person is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.

(2)A reference to a transsexual person is a reference to a person who has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment.

(3)In relation to the protected characteristic of gender reassignment—

(a)a reference to a person who has a particular protected characteristic is a reference to a transsexual person;

(b)a reference to persons who share a protected characteristic is a reference to transsexual persons.

Note cis people are not protected. It is lawful to discriminate in favour of trans people. The guidance says the protected characteristic includes people who have completed the process- “has undergone a process” was completely clear, but the notes put it differently. Anyway, a GRC does not mean I am no longer protected, or that the provisions allowing discrimination against trans folk no longer apply to me.

What are we protected from? Direct discrimination, being treated worse than a cis person because we are trans, s13; discrimination because we are off work for medical appointments, treatment or convalescence because we are trans, compared to someone taking time off for appointments for any other medical condition, s16; indirect discrimination, where there is a requirement that cis and trans people equally have to satisfy, but trans people have a particular difficulty satisfying- unless that is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”, s19.

We are also protected from harassment, that is bullying because we are trans, s26, and victimisation, bad treatment because we have raised a grievance or made a claim under the Equality Act, s27.

Like the other protected characteristics, we are protected in matters of work, which includes employment but is wider, services provided by companies or public bodies, schools, further and higher education, clubs and associations.

Sporting bodies can impose rules on transsexual people to secure fair competition or the safety of competitors, s195.

All-women shortlists for political candidates can include trans women, s104.

The bits I want to pay particular attention to are the exclusions of trans women from women’s spaces. Schedule 3 applies to the provision of services and public functions.

The armed forces can discriminate against us if that has the purpose of ensuring combat effectiveness. Here, the statute looks at “purpose”- it is a matter of intention, not how effective the discrimination would be in increasing combat effectiveness, or how disproportionate to the aim. Para 4.

Churches can refuse to marry couples where one party has a reassigned gender, para 24. Or when the pastor falsely but “reasonably” believes s/he has.

Single sex services can exclude us. Here is para 28:

28(1)A person does not contravene section 29, so far as relating to gender reassignment discrimination, only because of anything done in relation to a matter within sub-paragraph (2) if the conduct in question is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

(2)The matters are—

(a)the provision of separate services for persons of each sex;

(b)the provision of separate services differently for persons of each sex;

(c)the provision of a service only to persons of one sex.

All services are affected, from toilets to rape crisis centres and women’s refuges. It means we can be excluded or treated differently because we have undergone a process of gender reassignment, even if we have a gender recognition certificate.

Note the test of “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. The Equality and Human Rights Commission says this is only in exceptional circumstances.

Para 27 regulates when single-sex services may be provided: an establishment for persons requiring special care, supervision or attention, or where “a person of one sex might reasonably object to the presence of a person of the opposite sex”.

Schedule 9 relates to employment. Para 1: An employer can require an employee to have a particular protected characteristic, if it is a genuine occupational requirement. An employer can also require an employee not to be a transsexual person. This has also to be a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.

Here are the explanatory notes on exclusion from services of gender-reassigned people. A group counselling session is provided for female victims of sexual assault. The organisers do not allow transsexual people to attend as they judge that the clients who attend the group session are unlikely to do so if a male-to-female transsexual person was also there. This would be lawful. I disagree: would you exclude a trans woman if one cis woman would not attend? But the guidance notes are broad.

And on employment: This paragraph provides a general exception to what would otherwise be unlawful direct discrimination in relation to work. The exception applies where being of a particular sex, race, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation or age – or not being a transsexual person, married or a civil partner – is a requirement for the work, and the person whom it is applied to does not meet it (or, except in the case of sex, does not meet it to the reasonable satisfaction of the person who applied it). The requirement must be crucial to the post, and not merely one of several important factors. It also must not be a sham or pretext. In addition, applying the requirement must be proportionate so as to achieve a legitimate aim

Unemployed Muslim women might not take advantage of the services of an outreach worker to help them find employment if they were provided by a man.

A counsellor working with victims of rape might have to be a woman and not a transsexual person, even if she has a Gender Recognition Certificate, in order to avoid causing them further distress.

Well, a service specifically for unemployed Muslim women at a Muslim community centre might not use a trans worker, but a service for women could not refuse to employ a trans worker on the off-chance that Muslims might use it. The rule has to be “proportionate”. Possibly, a service could refer Muslim women to another worker; but as that would discriminate, that should not cause problems for the trans worker.

The guidance notes were written quickly at the time of the Act, and since then the Equality and Human Rights Commission has had time to consider the matter more fully, and issue codes of practice. They say, The basic presumption under the Act is that discrimination because of the protected characteristics is unlawful unless any exception applies and any exception to the prohibition of discrimination should generally be interpreted restrictively.

The exceptions are permitted if they are a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. This is the “objective justification” test. It is a defence for the discriminator, so the discriminator must prove it is justified.

The aim must be legitimate- legal and non-discriminatory, representing a real, objective consideration. Ensuring the wellbeing or dignity of those using the service, preventing fraud or abuse, ensuring health and safety, and ensuring services go to those most in need, are legitimate aims.

Proportionate requires a balancing exercise. Could the aim be achieved by less discriminatory means? Cost can only be taken into account if there are other good reasons for the discrimination.

The more serious the disadvantage caused by the discriminatory provision, the more convincing the objective justification must be.

Any public body discriminating must comply with their public sector equality duty. This is in s149 of the Equality Act: in everything it does, the public authority must have regard to its duties to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity, foster good relations between trans people and others, remove or minimise disadvantages suffered by trans people, take steps to meet their different needs, and encourage trans people to participate in public life. They should tackle prejudice against us, and promote understanding.