Quakers and gender diversity

Can we as [Britain] Yearly Meeting acknowledge and welcome gender diverse people who are or would like to be among us? Can I as a trans woman contribute to our discernment?

I mourn the loss to the Society, and to my nonbinary Friend, who felt forced out of their meeting. I have met a gender critical feminist who also felt forced out of her meeting.

Do you know what “gender critical” means? It is like the few Friends who have a detailed knowledge of the political statements of Hamas, and the treaty obligations relating to Area C, when I mean well but have no real clue about Palestine and Israel: generally Friends do not form sides, but in these issues we come close. Many Friends will not have heard of Helen Joyce or Laurel Hubbard, or know why each is a hero and a villain to different sides. I might think of platypuses, giggle, and then need ten minutes to explain why.

We are constantly triggered. I can barely look at The Times. I read in the New Statesman that gender critical feminism is now respectable, and Cancellation will not work any more. So before meeting with Friends I write a letter, then find Friends sympathetic yet uncomprehending.

Facts matter. The last Labour government constructed a scheme whereby trans people would be treated as our true gender from the moment of deciding to transition, with trans women using what the Equality Act refers to as “single-sex” services for women, when there were only a few thousand trans people who were all expected to fit gender stereotypes. Now there are ten times the number, and the concept of “living as a woman” is known to be indefinable.

Trans women can be excluded from women’s services if it is “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”, and the courts are yet to flesh out what that means.

So both sides can have their cognitive bias of loss aversion activated. I know I am generally entitled to be in women’s spaces, and am triggered when Liz Truss deploys the magic words “single-sex” now redefined to mean excluding me. Others fear a flood of people looking like men in women’s spaces. Misinformation makes it worse: you can read online that only trans women with a gender recognition certificate, after a psychiatric diagnosis, are conditionally entitled to be in women’s spaces.

How can those on a Side hear and value each other when there is this Hell-spawned zero-sum game? For either I am allowed in, or excluded. One’s win is another’s loss.

Some Friends believe that preventing children from having puberty blockers, and 18 year olds from having cross-sex hormones, is protecting those children and young people. I disagree. I know that people of any age beginning to express ourselves in our true gender are intensely vulnerable, often suffering rejection and fearing it everywhere.

I know that Friends, gender critical feminists, have experienced the oppression of patriarchy including male sexual violence, even within our Society. I know that they are entitled that Friends do what we can to reduce that oppression. I do not believe that excluding me from spaces I have been in as of right and often welcomed for years will reduce that oppression.

It seems to me that Friends who are gender critical feminists are particularly distant from feminine gender stereotypes, and have a great deal in common with nonbinary people who were assigned female at birth. To a great extent their aims to subvert gendered expectations are the same, and their conflict is merely over language. But gender critical feminists have told me all women are oppressed by feminine stereotypes equally. Some gender critical Friends have applied the words “gender diverse” to themselves, however uncomfortably.

Welcome means individual meetings welcoming particular individuals, knowing and affirming the whole person. Yet one meeting’s minute can offend Friends in other meetings, who then feel less welcome.

I know that expressing myself as a woman is living my truth, and that living my truth helps others do the same. I know trans men are men, trans women are women, nonbinary people are valid, and that my being trans is as real and worthy of affirmation as anything else that is biological. I know all aspects of being human are subsumed under socially constructed meaning and culture.

I have enough experience of speaking from my Inner Light to believe I can do it all the time, and develop theory around what that means, what helps, and what hinders. I know this means casting aside the stereotypes through which I habitually interpret the World, and seeing people individually. I quail from the overwhelming amount of new information intake that would mean. And sometimes God in me sees God in the other, and I feel joy.

In worship, I feel turmoil. Jesus said,

I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

And,

How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.

Helen Joyce, “Trans”

Birds swim, fish fly, mammals lay eggs. Nothing natural comes in nice, clear categories. However precisely we define them, every concept has fuzzy edges which challenge our understanding of it. Most or all women are indeed “adult human females”, whatever that means, and some women are trans.

I only did not chuck Joyce’s book across the room because it was on an e-reader. Every paragraph contains falsehoods or inaccuracies or simply misses the point. “This is a book about an idea”, she claims, which she calls “gender identity ideology”, which is simply not the way I see myself or any other trans person.

According to Joyce, “gender identity ideology” is a wide-ranging philosophical system which defines and describes everyone. It “sees everyone as possessing a gender identity,” she claims. However, many women, especially anti-trans campaigners, say they have no particular sense of a gender identity. Therefore gender identity ideology vanishes in a puff of logic. But, since it is her ideology rather than ours, trans people don’t vanish with it. We’re still here.

As a quasi-scientific explanation of humanity used to justify the argument that trans women are women, gender identity ideology only exists in the minds of the anti-trans campaigners. What we have instead is stories. I wanted to transition more than anything else in the world, but the thought terrified me. So I needed stories to justify this decision to myself and fortunately the word “transsexual” was there to help with that. I was a transsexual. There is fiddling with language since- transsexual, transsexual person, transgender, trans woman, whatever- but it made enough sense to me for me to transition. And I wanted stories to tell other people, to explain myself. This is my identity. It feels like who I am. And others observed how much happier and more relaxed I was, expressing myself female.

If “Trans” is a book about an idea, as the first sentence of the introduction says, then it can be put in the bin. It refutes a straw man so ridiculous that no-one need pay any attention to it. So what if Magnus Hirschfeld, Harry Benjamin and John Money had ridiculous ideas. They helped a huge number of people find our true selves. Unfortunately it is a book about people, which seeks to change how trans women are seen and treated, to expel us from the women’s spaces we have been in for decades, officially and as of right since 2010. Yes, all of them: her chapter “We just need to pee” sternly expels us.

Trans people, mostly harmless eccentrics, are portrayed as the great threat, to women and children. She claims studies show children with gender dysphoria mostly “grow out of it”, but such studies were flawed, based on the idea that being trans was a “disorder”, and some children were referred to clinics because they had a few cross-gender behaviours- boys liking dolls, for example- not a consistent, years-long conviction that they were of the other sex.

Rather than ordinary people trying to live our lives, she claims there are “trans activists”, funded by billionaires. The funding is on the other side. Someone I knew got money from a billionaire, paid through an intermediary- but she is an anti-trans campaigner. There was around £20,000 for a Times full page advert, and there are oodles of more or less hopeless cases against trans rights.

“Gender clinics have come under activists’ sway”, she claims, and the result is the mutilation of children! Help! Murder! Polis! What could we possibly gain by transing cis children?

However, in case her hate is showing, she distinguishes “ordinary trans people who simply want safety and social acceptance” from those nasty trans activists. Who are they? They have not had surgery, because people coming out as trans don’t usually “under[go] any sort of medical treatment”, (her claim is untrue) even though those cis children are “fast-tracked to hormones and surgery”.

She discusses David Reimer, whose penis was damaged when he was a baby, so he was brought up as a girl. His parents and teachers maintained the fiction that he was a girl, but he was unhappy and unfeminine, gaining the nickname “Cavewoman”. This is evidence of an innate gender identity, which survives despite socialisation. Joyce denies that. She claims his biology made him a boy. This contradicts much feminist thought, which claims that femininity is the oppression of the patriarchy, and that women have “masculine” characteristics which get suppressed by socialisation. But Joyce claims that being a biological male made him masculine despite his upbringing.

It’s all a ridiculous fantasy, belying Richard Dawkins’ cover quote: “Frighteningly necessary, thoroughly researched, passionate and very brave”. So he’s a transphobe: trans is frightening, restricting us is necessary. Did he even read it?

“Woman: adult human female.” Why is this definition seen as stirring up hatred?

Because that is its intent. It’s like “There ain’t no Black in the Union Jack”- a statement which might seem trite or inane, so obvious as not to need stating, has a particular association for those who weaponise it, and its intended victims. I am a woman, they falsely deny that.

A full page advert in The Times, with many more viewers when circulated on social media, asked that question. There are two stages to this, and the hatred is more overt in one than in the other. First, we need to know the facts.

Trans people have been transitioning for millennia, and since the 1960s in Britain this has been officially recognised. Psychiatrists were supervising trans people and getting our documents changed then, and when I saw my psychiatrist in 2001 he gave me a card saying that it was a normal part of my treatment for gender identity disorder for me to use women’s services. The Equality Act 2010 made this clear: trans women could use women’s “single-sex” spaces unless there was a particular reason to exclude someone. Socially, trans women are women, which means we can live our lives, mostly, freely and without hurting anyone.

The number of transitioned trans people has increased. In 2002, the government estimated there were 2000-5000, and in 2011 GIRES estimated that 12,500 adults had presented for treatment but another 90,000 might later. Now, around 50,000 have. This is an increase by an order of magnitude in twenty years, but is still only around 0.1% of the UK population.

In 2017 the UK Government proposed reforming gender recognition. One possibility was to remove the requirement for a psychiatrist’s opinion before we could get a Gender recognition certificate (GRC). That would be appropriate, because the International Classification of Diseases no longer classes gender dysphoria as an illness. At that moment, the hate campaign really got going. Now, it is obvious on facebook. Some people are vitriolic and obsessive anti-trans campaigners, but perhaps 30% of the population are mildly transphobic– mostly tolerant because they don’t care, but holding a few anti-trans opinions.

On social media, the people supporting the “adult human female” slogan are increasingly radicalised, and the hate is clear. Always, there is an attempt to present trans people as seeking new rights, or predatory men pretending to be trans in order to get into women’s spaces, to create fear and disgust and invoke the cognitive bias of loss aversion. There is the claim that cis women in women’s prisons lose if trans women are housed there, and endless reference to Karen White. White is a rapist, and should not have been in the women’s general population, but the campaigners argue we are all like that which is a standard tactic to dehumanise a minority group. There is constant reference to Laurel Hubbard, and the claim that her inclusion makes women’s sports unfair, though there are hardly any trans people in sports at any level.

However, there is another stage. They want to normalise the idea that trans women should not be in women’s spaces. This is Joanna Cherry’s line: she claims to support trans rights, while demanding that trans women be excluded from women’s spaces. That is behind the demand to distinguish gender from sex, and the insistence that trans women are men.

The last Labour government fostered an inclusive society, where prejudice was seen as a bad thing. It stopped being normal to express bigoted views about LGBT or BAME people. People are willing to let others live their own lives and make their own choices, and if those choices are different from the ones they would make people are less likely to condemn. For the hard right to change that takes huge effort. The right wing press has for decades presented immigration as a threat, and now is doing the same to trans people.

This requires repeated monstering, mockery and hatred. But someone who minimises trans people’s needs might not realise they were hateful. Consciously, instead of hate and fear they might feel slight distaste, pity, indifference to our pleas, contempt and a sense that we were deluded and ridiculous. It is this indifference which the advert is designed to arouse. The groups behind it refer slightingly to “men’s feelings”, denying the desperation we feel before we transition. Once this stage is reached, we become the out-group, the people it is normal to despise. Refugees, whom even the BBC calls “migrants”, are already in this position. After trans people, who will be next?

Another advantage the hard right gain from such propaganda is to demoralise and split the Left. The Green Party is conflicted, and has lost its co-leader Sian Berry. There are efforts in the Labour party to create similar conflict.

Escaping the culture wars

The Fabian Society shows how culture wars are created by the right wing to damage the left. Its pamphlet “Counter Culture” details how we could resist them and build solidarity: by working to end culture wars, not to win them. Culture wars are political fights picked not to change public policy, but to enflame emotion and deepen division as a campaigning tool. They do not show differences in interest or beliefs among people generally, but instead are fomented by elites.

Even right-wingers who might profit electorally should see that the damage to social cohesion is not worth it. The Left sees we have “more in common than what divides us”, and only solidarity offers real security. Our anger at injustice can give us energy for campaigning, but harms us when it breaks relationships.

I got the pamphlet to see what it said about the anti-trans movement. There may be 50,000 people transitioned or transitioning in Britain now, but trans is dragged up constantly by the right wing press, and Tory MPs recognise it is a wedge issue to divide the working class from other disadvantaged groups. “MPs have been piling pressure to engage in a war on woke. Issues ranging from alleged BBC bias and Extinction Rebellion to trans rights and Black Lives Matter could unite the base, wrote Katy Balls. So this is a campaign strategy, to “fatten the pig before market day” and get people identifying as Tories, rather than a coherent strategy on policy, and the war against trans people is a central plank.

“Culture war” is an American term, concerning issues of who we are as a nation. The international hard right exports this around the world. Though in Britain Christianity is less important, and on the Left as well as the Right, the media which ignored culture war in 2015 was writing about it daily in 2020. Even now, few people care. But Tory voters who have “leant their votes” in the North of England are economically left wing, dividing them from the core Tory vote, members and MPs. But on questions of identity and values, Tories are united, and Labour MPs, members and voters divided.

Populism is different: a view of Left or Right that the corrupt elite oppress the real people. So for the Left, plutocrats distort our politics to avoid paying their share or supporting the common good, and for the Right, enemies of the people, such as judges, tried to block Brexit. But most people are reasonably accepting of trans people, and those working for us or against us are educated and comparatively wealthy.

The writers propose three elements in culture war. 1. An attempt to argue that the Left undermines or disrespects Britain or its people. Jonathan Haidt says on the Left, morality is based on care for others and fairness, but on the Right includes respect for tradition, loyalty and sanctity. 2. This exploits majority fears, and the loss aversion cognitive bias, with zero-sum thinking that others’ gain is our loss, producing a thwarted sense of entitlement, that something is being taken from us. 3. Something minor, marginal, or made up is being amplified: you will rarely see a trans woman in a women’s loo, and Laurel Hubbard is one trans woman in a competition of 11,000 athletes in 339 events, the first since trans women could compete as women in 2004.

Culture war is a Right wing strategy to divide, distract and demoralise the Left. The British Social Attitudes survey shows an increasingly liberal outlook. The media is creating culture war, for example The Times’ obsessive reporting demonising trans people. 2% of the people produce 80% of the tweets. The BBC found someone from Philadelphia to argue that Adele committed cultural appropriation, in order to stage a “debate”.

The culture wars distract us from real issues that affect our lives. A cis woman might read a pejorative article about Laurel Hubbard, “do her research” and start campaigning against trans rights even though she has never had a bad experience with a trans woman, let alone have her off-line life affected by trans rights. They divide feminists on trans rights, so feminists oppose each other with arcane debates, rather than working together against patriarchy, and appear irrelevant to other women. We spend time in smaller echo-chambers, so do not seek common ground. And people on Left and Right use the word misgendering as a shorthand for allegedly woke policies, not in the interest of the working class, which the Left should avoid- as if we could not support trans rights as well as equitable economics. But working class cis people may have trans friends, and trans people also suffer materially. Class is a matter of identity.

The culture war demoralises us, exhausting us. The class interest of the majority of people, in getting companies and the wealthiest to pay fair taxes, is clear, but the Right would claim supporting Black rights is an attack on white people. Women, particularly Black women, in politics face dreadful abuse.

The culture war is fomented by grievance mongers driving a wedge between supporters of interventionist economic policy, tempting some away by a “war on woke”. And by those who make a living from outrage, such as Melanie Philips. Once they start, people affected join in- trans people on facebook occasionally speak up for our rights, because our lives are affected, and so public threads started by enthusiastic trans-excluders grow like tumours. Toxic social media polarises debate, then news media gets attention by quoting tweets, or inviting grievance peddlers to “debate” on news programmes.

Then there are trolls, who enjoy being transgressive, or enjoy seeing others emotionally wounded, or are marginalised people who crave status, or who work for malign foreign actors seeking to promote division. Social media amplifies them.

How can the Left build a better politics? We need to repay our debts to those who have sacrificed or suffered the most, from the financial crash, austerity and Covid. We need a vision of the future everyone can value. Robert Kennedy in the 1960s built a coalition of working class whites and blacks by saying what he believed, and giving a coherent, popular message, rather than relying on focus groups, by finding a consistent story that unites voters in all battlegrounds. We need to mention all groups by name, or they do not feel included. Their dignity and feelings matter, not just their income. A story of our past which everyone can take pride in showing the unity Gareth Southgate builds in his team?

Politicians should calm down angry division, and show how they can negotiate a solution where everyone wins, through co-operation. To love one’s country is not a matter of having a particular view on the legacy of empire, but to uphold the integrity of its institutions; not to demonise immigrants and benefit claimants, but those who seek to buy influence or avoid their responsibilities to society. We should shame culture war peddlers, and promote the understanding that a diversity of opinions and values is essential to democracy. We need to regulate social media out of making money from division and misinformation.

We should name and oppose the attempts to distract and divide us. We need to know a good argument before facing the questions. 77% of people believe the media makes the country look more divided than it is, and 44% believe politicians exaggerate culture war as a political tactic. Why are they trying to shift the debate from covid deaths to statues?

We need inclusive social movements, cross-class, multi-racial and intergenerational. We should not use a language of weakness and shame, labelling people vulnerable or hard to reach. We should use clear language- most people agree that it is easier to get ahead if you are white, but far fewer agree that there is white privilege in Britain.

The pamphlet is freely available here.

Laurel Hubbard

Laurel Hubbard, sporting pioneer, is under attack from the transphobic media.

The Times has several articles about her. On 18 July, Rebecca Myers wrote that she is in the eye of the storm, as if she did not realise that the eye is the still, calm centre. Myers quotes unnamed “critics” saying the rules make no sense, then the line “It polarises people”. There is a picture of demonstrators against Laurel with transphobic placards, though only about a dozen of them, and two competitors who oppose her inclusion. Joanna Harper says all these women are big and strong, and all have advantages. Then there is a long quote that men have physical advantages, implying but not confirming or denying that Laurel keeps those advantages. It’s a hit piece.

On 27 June, David Walsh protested his “deep empathy” with Laurel but wrote an article starting with a 1980s style transition story- I always knew I was a girl, etc, etc- with misgendering and prurient detail such as trying on “his” sister’s clothes. Then Walsh starts quoting opponents calling her male and opposing her inclusion, and says she retains a “strength advantage”. Despite all this, on 4 July the Times published a letter attacking Walsh’s article as not transphobic enough.

On 21 June, Matt Lawton reported that she was to be the first trans woman Olympic athlete. The picture on the piece is of her on a winner’s podium, and the first paragraph alleges her inclusion is unfair. The British Olympic Association called for research into trans women’s “physiological advantages”. Then there’s exactly the same quote from Tracey Lambrechs that Rebecca Myers used.

On 26 June, Martyn Ziegler reported uncritically on a paper by Cathy Devine, who had found 19 athletes to agree with her that trans women had a competitive advantage but claimed they were afraid to express their views publicly for fear of being labelled “transphobic”- scare quotes Ziegler’s. Devine is a noted transphobe who told a House of Commons committee that no trans women should compete in women’s sports.

Also on 26 June Graham Spiers questioned the “fair play” of including Laurel. He started by saying there were “sensitivities” in the “transgender debate” then claims, contrary to evidence, that Laurel retains all the advantages of the male body. “Were he a woman” he would stand no chance against her superior strength, he claims; but the world no.1 has a personal best 50kg heavier than Laurel’s.

On 22 June, Ross Tucker claimed that trans women retain men’s biological advantages even when we reduce T levels, and our inclusion is unfair. On 24 June, Janice Turner took a side-swipe at Laurel in her article on transphobe Jess de Wahls. She quoted Caitlyn Jenner claiming Laurel’s inclusion is not fair- trans people can be quoted, if they speak against trans rights- and quoted Jenner’s personal bests as if they would not be affected by T reduction.

On 18 June, Jason Allardyce reported that Highland Games could include trans athletes, even though no athlete has yet presented as trans. He mentioned Laurel Hubbard. As always, the most upvoted comments are relentlessly transphobic, crying Unfair.

Do other athletes get similar coverage? Abigail Irozuru, British long-jumper, who was a finalist at Doha, is only mentioned in the list of the British team. British, World champion heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson is in four articles about her injury, and has two other mentions. Dina Asher-Smith, a sprinter The Times calls one of the team’s “biggest medal hopes”, has one article in four weeks plus a few mentions, including one that she went to the same school as Emma Raducanu.

The Times reader-commenters are well trained. Even when (20 July) Melanie Phillips wrote an outrage piece about bribery and politics in Games venues, most of the most popular comments were about “men” in women’s sports.

The Daily Mail has about a hundred articles on Laurel, and just the headlines contain transphobia such as, her inclusion will knock women out of sport, is a “bad joke”, and “kick in the teeth for female athletes”. “Backlash” to “Openly” trans athlete! A man is a man!

The Guardian has several articles, including an opinion article by Tanya Aldred saying her inclusion is unfair. Well, all professional athletes have physical advantages as well as training, and no male athlete would reduce his T and pretend to be trans in order to compete with women.

At the fastest, most destructive part of the storm, Laurel Hubbard will be competing and I will cheer her on. The transphobe press is determined to harp on and on about her, crying Unfair and attacking all trans people vicariously through her. So if she wins a medal we will all triumph.

“Thoughtful Therapists”

Reading transphobes’ tweets can be rewarding- you learn bits of good news. “Momentum is in bed with the transactivists” wails some useless phobe with 18 likes, alongside (according to them) the NHS, the BPS, the UKCP and the Labour Party. Elsewhere the railing gets unhinged- journalists’ ethics and trade unions require “all material reality be abandoned”, wails some phobe with her hand out for donations. Actually, she means sometimes news sites print stories showing trans people in a reasonable light, rather than a transphobic one. No link, it’s a barely notorious transphobe called Julian Vigo if you really want to do a search.

Julian, your paranoia reassures me. It makes your hate ineffectual. Still, no doubt some US billionaire hard-right activist will bung a few bucks your way.

Another twitter account is called “thoughtful therapists”. They mean counsellors rather than physical therapists. I would say “thoughtful” is a bare minimum in a psychotherapist. It should not need to be said. So why do they claim to be “thoughtful”? Perhaps because they’ve been told they are simply reactive and not thoughtful at all. “We’re thoughtful!” they wail, failing to reassure themselves. They are up against the British Psychological Society and the UK Council for Psychotherapy. Looking down their 677 tweets since March, all they tweet is transphobia.

They want the right as “therapists” to insist that no-one can ever be trans and transition is always wrong. They want to search endlessly for some sickness, some reason that a patient falsely believes they are trans. When they try that, it does not go well.

Fraudulently, their profile picture includes the logos of NHS England, NHS Scotland, the BACP, and the Royal College of General Practitioners among others, as if they spoke for any of these organisations.

The trouble with individuals like this is that they give propaganda outlets someone to quote. One of these “thoughtful” therapists is named. I went to her site and found gushing praise for her quoted, from notour transphobes and the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph etc. But even The Times has not quoted “Thoughtful Therapists”.

And now The Telegraph, desperate for someone to speak out against trans people and give their ignorant readers a thrill of revulsion, has bitten, and quotes “A Spokesman for Thoughtful Therapists” ad longum. This spokesman is anonymous, perhaps because being associated with such a group should mean no-one consulted them except transphobe parents seeking conversion therapy for their children.

And The Telegraph, in its desperate attempts to horrify its readers and turn them against trans people, can’t help giving good news. Dr Igi Moon, chair of the group revising the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK, and the lead on the document for the BPS, is nonbinary. The Telegraph misgenders them, using “she” pronouns, and quotes them supporting trans rights. Then it refers to the anonymous “thoughtful” “therapist” by They pronouns, so as not even to give away their gender. They must be completely terrified of exposure of their hateful views. They want to avoid the reasonable disciplinary processes of the professional bodies- or perhaps the revelation that they are not a qualified therapist at all.

Propaganda rags like The Telegraph, and extreme right wing campaigning money, supports these transphobes yet they are few in number and mostly anonymous. The Telegraph reports that Momentum hosted Dr Moon. The truth is getting out, despite the efforts of the propagandists.

Anti-trans radicalisation

Anti-trans fantasies that the law is what they might hope it to be are so prevalent that there is a name for them, “Mumsnet Law”.

Here is a sample. OTSOTA tweets, “Sex is a legally protected characteristic. Transgender ie someone who has legally been certified after assessment as a person of biological SEX LIVING AS a member of the opposite SEX for 2yrs intending such to death, is a CONDITIONAL protected characteristic Self-ID = no legality”. When someone replied with a quote from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, he said this is “fraudulent”, and saying it “ignites a witch hunt against women”. Weirdly, he claims a degree in Law. What he says is not true.

So I went to Mumsnet, where they were responding to the prisons judgment. “Legally, we need ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ to be crystal clear. We need absolutely watertight definitions that are clearly understood by everyone. They need to be applied to every relevant policy and piece of legislation.” ArabellaScott wants “single-sex spaces” to exclude every trans woman. Fortunately, she does not think that is the law now. Because they have been confronted with the actual law, on that thread they fantasise about other things- “The 97 other assualts (sic) might all have been trans women with GRC”. They have no sympathy for trans women- “These 7 assaults were avoidable”, one says, but none mention the eleven assaults on trans women in men’s prisons in one year. Some of the 97 sexual assaults recorded in women’s prisons might have been against trans women.

They are radicalising, encouraging each other to hate more.

On another thread they discuss protected characteristics in a school. TheInebriati fantasises about the law, saying schools must provide “single sex”- no trans girls!- toilets. But CharlieParley is mostly correct, saying that once a trans person decides to socially transition they are protected. They are wrong to correct “The Act protects transgender people.” They write, “Well, to be precise, the Act protects transsexual people”. The characteristic is gender reassignment, and the Act conflates sex and gender.

GrownUpBeans fantasises- “Gender identity is protected as a belief.” No, anti-trans beliefs may be protected in some cases, but gender identity (reassignment) is a protected characteristic in its own right.

StumbledIn links to the protected characteristic of sex in the Equality Act, without any commentary. Elsewhere, this is a basis for fantasy law.

Oldwomanwhoruns claims “gender reassignment” is not relevant, because children cannot undergo gender reassignment. This is false. Children can decide to reassign.

2fallsagain is correct- “there are still situations where a male person can be legitimately excluded from a female space”- but could mislead. Trans women are not excluded from women’s services on the grounds that we are “male”, because we are not. “Gender reassignment does not trump sex”, they say. Well. Trans women are entitled to use women’s services, but can be excluded if there is a particular reason for it. CharlieParley corrects them.

Saltyslug has confused the Equality Act and the Gender Recognition Act. “Gender reassignment is a formal process involving specialist consultants, gender dysphoria and usually takes two years to get the certificate”. They are wrong. We are protected under the Equality Act from the moment we decide to transition. We do not need a gender recognition certificate. After BadGherkin corrects them, they refer to the gender recognition application process.

A brief look finds Mumsnutters misstating the law. The radicalisation, which was in full flow on the prisons thread, was mitigated on the legal  thread, as two posters corrected the worst errors, but the fantasists did not listen. That tweet, so self-righteous and so wrong, indicates how deluded some people are about the law. Such delusions may lead to angry outbursts at trans people in public.

Trans women in English prisons

Dark money is funding court actions against government bodies, human rights organisations and women’s rights organisations, seeking to make trans lives harder. These cases are often terribly weak, but each win only reverts back to the status quo, and may contain a tiny thing the trans-excluders can use, in their desperate attempts to harm trans people.

There was a case seeking to exclude trans women prisoners from women’s prisons, which failed. The judge took time to compliment the QC for the trans-excluders, who presented the case with her “customary skill”. He did that because he needed to comment that “the weakness of the arguments is the failure to give sufficient weight to the way in which the policies permit, and indeed require, the necessary balancing of competing rights.” (Judgment, paragraph 91.)

The trans-excluders lose, because they cannot see the need to consider the needs or rights of vulnerable trans people. They may continue fomenting anger and fear against trans people, and raising large sums of cash, but apparently are not good at assessing whether a case is worth pleading. It appears money is no object for them. One witness they led gave irrelevant and inadmissible evidence (72)- I imagine them railing against the human rights of trans people, ineffectually.

What do we learn from the case? The court accepts a distinction between the words “sex” and “gender”, and quoted another case claiming sex relates to “physical characteristics, including chromosomal, gonadal and genital features” while gender “is used to refer to the individual’s self-perception.” In reality, I am just as much a “real woman” as a cis woman is, and gender refers to a wide range of cultural norms and expressions including the norm that trans women are women. However the claimant conceded that the Equality Act uses the words interchangeably. Perhaps all the trans women on GIC waiting lists should start calling themselves “transsexual women”.

47% of women prisoners are serving indeterminate sentences or sentences of four years or more. That is, they are dangerous women serving sentences for serious crime. They included the claimant in this case, who has recently been released back into the community on licence. The claimant argued that seeing a trans woman in a woman’s prison amounted to “torture” under the Human Rights Act, despite the seriousness of the crimes committed by cis women, and the fear they might raise in others. The prison system is full of violent offenders.

The average length of a custodial sentence for women is 11.3 months. That is, most women sent to prison are sent there for less serious offences. However most women actually in prison are there for serious offences.

With that context, the offences of trans women actually in prison seem to fit the profile of cis women. There are no central statistics of how many women prisoners have a gender recognition certificate, but it is thought to be fewer than ten (para 13).

In March 2019, there were 163 transgender prisoners, of whom 81 had been convicted of one or more sexual offences. There were no details of whether those prisoners were currently imprisoned for sexual offences. 129 were in men’s prisons, of whom 74 had been convicted of a sexual offence, so there were seven trans women in women’s prisons then who had been convicted of a sexual offence at some time in the past.

Between 2016 and 2019 there were 97 sexual assaults recorded in women’s prisons. Seven of these were committed by trans women without a GRC, four by one prisoner. In 2019, eleven trans women were recorded as sexually assaulted in men’s prisons. No trans woman was recorded as having committed a sexual assault in a women’s prison (14). In March 2019, there were 34 trans women without a GRC in women’s prisons.

Mr Justice Swift gave the opinion that the prison service should keep a record of how many trans women with a GRC are in women’s prisons (103). The problem is that this may result in their being outed, which could be a criminal offence.

Both judges said that there could be a “significant psychological impact” on a cis woman seeing a trans woman in a women’s prison (76-77; 100). This should not be overstated. They have made a decision on the relevant facts for the purpose of this case, so it should be read as even if there is a significant psychological impact on cis prisoners, the rules are still fair. However it is still horrible to read that I am scaring cis women as I go about my daily life, when they see me in women’s services. If that were the case, trans women would have been ejected from women’s services before now: I have been in women’s spaces for twenty years.

Trans women in prison are not allowed to shower with cis women (38).

The prison service has a rule (9) that “Women prisoners shall normally be kept separate from male prisoners.” However this is not the same as invoking the Equality Act single-sex exemptions, as the claimant demanded (44). No person in charge of a service, including the prisons minister, had any obligation to apply those exemptions (88). This will make it considerably harder for the trans excluders to win cases against any women’s service that admits trans women, though I doubt it will stop them trying. I worried that this court action would blur the distinction between the Equality Act rules allowing men to be excluded, and the rule allowing trans women to be excluded. Fortunately it did not, because it was so misconceived.

The trans excluders tried to argue that statistically, a trans woman was five times more likely than a cis prisoner to sexually assault a cis prisoner. The judge called this “a misuse of the statistics” (75). They tried to argue that there was indirect discrimination, as cis women were more affected by trans women than cis men were by trans men, and failed: perhaps they are, but the prisons service has to look after the needs of trans women.

Effectively, the trans excluders lost because putting trans women in women’s prisons follows the legitimate aim of ensuring the safety and welfare of all prisoners, including the trans women (87). The prisons service demonstrated that the means adopted are reasonable, at least from the point of view of any challenge by non-trans prisoners.

Trans women will continue to be in men’s prisons, and continue to live in fear there, and be assaulted, often sexually. But the excluders have failed in their attempt to make more trans women live in such fear and threat.

Dr Sarah Lamble of the Bent Bars Collective intervened in the interests of trans prisoners. She is a reader in Criminology and Queer Theory. She argued that the lack of reliable data prevented assessing the risk of trans prisoners as a group. Because there are more trans prisoners than are recorded, the proportion who had committed sexual offences is likely to be lower than the claimant had asserted. There is no reliable basis for claims by trans excluders that trans women have “male patterns of criminality”.

When a trans woman without a GRC asks to be placed in a women’s prison, the prison service will continue to be assessed by a Local Transgender Case Board and/or a Transgender Complex Case Board (24). It seems that such boards err on the side of placing trans women in men’s prisons, placing those trans women at risk. This court case could never lessen the risk to vulnerable trans women, but at least it has not made it worse.

The Guardian misled with these figures. It did not mention the assaults on trans women in men’s prisons. It did not show that the number of trans women convicted of a sexual offence in women’s prisons was only seven.

Pride Month in Parliament

“I am a proud lesbian, a proud feminist and a trans ally, and I see absolutely no contradiction between any of these values.” I find Angela Eagle’s words moving, and wish they did not need to be said. The House of Commons debated Pride, and stood up for trans rights, and other MPs had similar thoughts: Alyn Smith, SNP, said “Women have nothing to fear from trans equality.” Kirsten Oswald, SNP, said “Trans people should feel safe, secure and welcome”. They need to say it because we don’t feel that.

Mhairi Black, SNP, gave a powerful speech which is worth watching. She starts with the British Empire exporting homophobia round the world. We LGBT people are more likely to self-harm or be suicidal, or the victim of a crime, but less likely to report it to the police. It is worse for trans people. She spoke of the “organised and concerted international campaign against the trans community”. An International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation report found “Transphobia has long been one of the most major and ubiquitous narratives around which the far right mobilises… Transphobia should be recognised as a security concern.” She connects the US right-wing to campaigns in Britain “purporting to speak for LGB people”, though in reality LGB people support us.

The Values Voters Summit speaker claimed “women, sexual assault survivors…ethnic minorities who…value modesty, economically challenged children…and…children with anxiety disorders” might be drawn in as allies against trans, by preying on their fears. In reality,

We are battling the same problems and the same patriarchal beast.

The anti-trans campaigners target trans inclusive rape crisis centres. The media platform these hateful views uncritically. Trans people contact her, because they are too frightened to contact their own MP. We are living in a moral panic fanned by organised misinformation and radicalisation.

You can also watch Stewart McDonald, SNP. “God is shining on us”, he said. I am glad when Christians speak of their Christianity, in speaking up for LGBT rights. He said, “We do not have a community if we expel one part of it”. He talked of transphobia in the Times and the Herald. If an Imam wrote such things people would “go off their nuts”- good to hear the vernacular in Parliament. He and I find hope in Stonewall and the Equality Network. Martin Docherty-Hughes, SNP, also talked of “non-state actors targeting the most vulnerable, specifically our trans brothers and sisters”. “Diversity is our greatest strength,” he said.

Alistair Carmichael, LD, made the same point: “using defining characteristics for a political purpose is as low as it is possible to go.” As Ian Byrne, Labour, said, “Division of communities leads to a breakdown of cohesion and the opportunity for hate and fear to flourish.”

Sarah Owen, Labour, attacked “so called charities” and MPs pandering to those who call trans dangerous. She said trans people are fearful when the media refers to the “Trans Taliban” to describe “trans people who just want to get on with their lives”. “Those who genuinely believe in human rights do not choose which human’s rights they support and which they do not.” Precisely. If the Government can remove protection from Shamima Begum, it can remove protection from me. She said, “we need to start seriously asking ourselves who these people are coming for next”.

Kim Johnson, Labour, spoke of how the government had disbanded their own LGBT+ advisory panel.

Angela Eagle connected that radicalisation to the Conservative Party, talking of “the Government’s increasing appetite for fomenting divisive culture wars that seek to pit one group in society against another. That emboldens bullies and problematises vulnerable minorities. It generates fear and resentments, which can only do harm.” Homophobic and transphobic hate crimes soar, but prosecutions plummet.

Many MPs spoke of trans health care. Charlotte Nichols, Labour, gave a waiting time of 18 months, which seems low to me. She said, “supporting LGBT rights is political. We are not a colourful add-on to brands that do not challenge ongoing homophobia or transphobia. A rainbow does not mean that every storm has ended.” There is some confusion here. She says, “more than 13,500 transgender and non-binary adults are on the NHS GIDS waiting list in England”, but GIDS is the Gender Identity Development Service, for children and young people. Still, it is a huge statistic. Elliot Colburn, Conservative, said we face “years and years” of waiting lists. Kim Johnson said that even after the Government’s planned new gender clinics, there would still be nearly 10,000 on waiting lists.

I worry that the emphasis on health care pressures trans people into medicalisation we might not choose for ourselves.

Angela Eagle said the Government have reneged on their commitment to reform the GRA. “The current bureaucratic, demeaning and intrusive process, which involves them having to get doctors to agree that they are suffering from a mental illness and to certify that they have lived in their preferred gender for two years, is no longer fit for purpose.” Crispin Blunt, Conservative, mostly praised the government, but alluded delicately to the government’s “misfired response” to the GRA consultation. The speaker rebuked him for taking too long.

The Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts used GRA reform to call for greater devolution to Wales.

The debate is personal. Peter Gibson, Conservative, who is gay, spoke of his nephew Luke who is trans: “I am reminded of the same journey of fear, acceptance, love and celebration that gay men and women go through”.

Angela Crawley, SNP, spoke of being raised Catholic, a faith she still respects and “to some extent I admire”. It made her feel deep shame and believe she could never have a family. Now “I am incredibly proud of who I am”. She moved me to tears, especially when she congratulated Angela Eagle, “whose very presence, bravery and courage in this Chamber have paved the way for so many of us”.

So did Dan Carden, Labour, also on video, who said how frightening coming out can be- but “hiding who you are into adulthood will cause you far more suffering anyway”. He was traumatised. He suppressed his emotions and became alcoholic. “Drinking was destroying my body.” “For me, it was about losing who I was over a long period of time. It was desperate isolation.” In his third year of recovery he has a loving partner and appreciates everything he has.

I used to live in Newport, and am glad one of its MPs, Jessica Morden, Labour, singled it out: the council flew the Progress flag, to recognise “the breadth of sexual and gender identities that we welcome” in Newport.

Alistair Carmichael, LD, did not speak of trans but spoke of the most northern Pride in the UK, in Kirkwall, and the delight of gay friends who have given blood for the first time. It is a symbol of inclusion.

Wera Hobhouse, LD, spoke of all the Tory promises since 2015 to ban conversion therapy, and their current undated consultation which is only further delay. She said Alan Turing is now on the ÂŁ50 note. He suffered chemical castration ordered by the State, and the current delay on conversion therapy means his use as a figurehead is hypocrisy.

Bizarrely, the minister Mike Freer claimed the government “are committed to levelling up outcomes for LGBT people”, showing how meaningless that slogan is. He said, “the Government believe that the current provisions of the GRA allow for those who wish to legally change their gender to do so”.

Joanna Cherry, self-proclaimed lesbian campaigner, was too wily or too ashamed to attend with her usual dog-whistles.

MPs also mentioned inclusive education, also a target of the far right; HIV; and international aid, which the government is cutting.

The word “TERF”

I will no longer use the word “TERF”.

It is a good word to express contempt, with that plosive T. Someone is only a terf, an enemy, a deluded person. They claim it is a slur, and use it to claim victimhood- see the horrible things they call us! “Punch a TERF!” they quote, endlessly.

It stands for “trans-excluding radical feminist”, and one objection I have to it is that anti-trans campaigners are not necessarily radical feminists. Some are conservative Evangelicals, and some have no particular feminist views other than hating opposing trans people. They are sucked up by social media radicalisation. Radical feminism is a world view, centring women’s oppression in the reproductive system, with particular attitudes to paying for sex, surrogacy, and violence against women and girls. One might engage with it. Often, you cannot engage with trans excluders, whose only relevant philosophy is no trans women in women’s spaces, not never not nohow, and no treatment for trans children (usually not trans men either) because they cannot believe trans children exist.

I changed “hating trans people” to “opposing trans people”. The most horrible attitude in them is dismissal: they talk of “single-sex” spaces excluding “men” as if trans people did not exist. They pretend to dispassion. There is a ghastly and complete lack of sympathy. Their one priority is protecting [cis] women.

I don’t like the term “gender critical feminist”. Some only take in feminism through social media posts, never reading more widely. And, believing that gender is an oppressive social construct need not mean that you are hostile to trans women in women’s spaces. Instead, it could mean that you welcome us, as we subvert gender norms.

Their idea of “gender ideology” deludes them. They claim trans people are divorced from reality, but the only thing you need to believe to accept trans women in women’s spaces is that trans people exist, and are mostly harmless.

Some anti-trans campaigners object to being called “gender critical” too, because they want to conceal the fact that their expressed desires affect no-one but trans people. So they claim to be campaigners for “sex-based rights” or “women’s rights”, pretending that their desired ends might give protection from “predatory men” rather than harm trans people.

They dislike the term “trans excluders”, arguing that common sense excludes “trans identified males” from “women’s spaces”, but trans women have been in women’s spaces mostly harmlessly for decades, so in effect they campaign to drive us out. So they are anti-trans campaigners, whatever they claim about respecting trans people or supporting trans rights.

The worst of them spread vile myths, and incite fear of us by constant reference to the worst of us. They may identify with Maria MacLachlan to claim vicarious victimhood, even martyrdom. It is a common tactic in anti-trans campaigning. Consumed by a sense of their own righteousness, many of them have lost all sense of proportion. And yet, each is an individual, with human vulnerability and with some capacity of empathy. Unfortunately, people’s empathy is usually shut down if they feel threatened, and mainstream media keeps them constantly triggered.

The media thrives on drama, and the simplest drama is confrontation. The media obsesses on anti-trans v trans. So the BBC had a profile of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and used the time as if the three most important things about her were “Half of a Yellow Sun”, “Americanah”, and her remark in 2017 that “trans women are trans women”.

Our empathy can be shut down too. This weakens us, making us angrier and less creative. Both sides are victims. They are wrongdoers- victims of violent men, they refuse to draw a distinction when considering harmless trans women. Then their sense of victimhood and standing up for their rights feeds off reasonable or angry demands that they cease their exclusionary campaign, or be silenced. But their initial victimhood is real, serious, and worthy of empathy.

I have removed the word “terf” from front page links, and from my tags, replacing it with anti-trans campaigner. I have left it in the titles of older posts.

Picture today: I see resonances, but I picked this because I have just watched the great film “All about Eve”.