Transphobes deny reality

You are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts. What has Woman’s Place UK achieved? Nothing that they should feel any pleasure in whatsoever. They have made Rupert Murdoch quietly satisfied, and enabled his organ to print as many as four trans-bashing articles in a week. They have made David TC Davies very happy- after trying to rile feminists in service of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant nationalism, he has finally managed to rile some of them against trans people, to further his far-right, hate-stoking ends. This is the MP who voted to limit abortion to 12 weeks, so making him happy is not a feminist cause.

What do they think they have achieved? They think the consultation on gender recognition reform is thanks to their agitation. Yet Justine Greening announced it in July 2017, two months before WPUK was formed.

They don’t understand the proposal, even after completing the consultation. Who is allowed to go into women’s spaces is governed by the Equality Act. That will not change. A gender recognition certificate is almost entirely symbolic. And yet they claim any man will be able to go into women’s spaces. They seem to think that men will either declare themselves female without being transgender.

That’s a matter of muddled thinking, partly because of the way people have become more extreme as this debate has gone on. Most on the side of WPUK seem to recognise the category of true transsexual, a person who has a diagnosis and medical treatment and probably should be accepted in the acquired gender. In their need to exclude men from women’s spaces, some might extend the requirements: they must have had surgery, so excluding people on a path to surgery; they must pass, to avoid distressing women present; their motivations may be suspect, and “Autogynephilia” is a good excuse to exclude trans women with a diagnosis and surgery.

There are two clear, principled positions: trans women are women, and should be treated as women; trans women are men, and women’s spaces and privileges should be for women born women only. Between these views, it is hard to draw a line, and can just lead to confused argument between allies rather than Opposing the Enemy. So there is the assertion that men will come into women’s spaces. They mean different things by that. Some mean post-op transsexuals, some claim to mean men who are not really transgender but are using the system.

So there is a dispute about what is likely to happen. I say no man will declare himself to be a woman unless s/he is trans. I say no man will enter a woman’s loo or changing room without presenting female, and generally that will be fairly clear- no beards, for example. This is not a question of fact- we cannot be certain of likelihood- but I find their fears ridiculously exaggerated. I also feel some risk should be tolerable, for the sake of us well-intentioned trans women. They seem to accept no risk at all.

They overestimate the numbers involved. I put it at 40,000, about 0.1% of the population will transition. More may want to but not, for various reasons. I think that’s a manageable problem, not deserving the great scrutiny they give it. I say they are ignoring the hard Right’s delight in fomenting conflict on the Left and prejudice against trans people, and enforcing strict gender stereotypes. They seem to think that just because they are Left themselves they have no responsibility for the hard-Right causes they further.

Suddenly disclosed gender dysphoria

Just because someone has only just noticed signs of a person’s gender dysphoria does not mean that it has had a “rapid onset”. A parent might report that the child had appeared happy and gave no sign of gender dysphoria, but the child might have had distress which s/he could not name, or even known their own gender identity for years. A child might suddenly disclose because they have decided to take action on their gender dysphoria, which they had concealed because they did not know what they could do about it. And just because someone has not noticed signs of gender dysphoria, does not mean they were not obvious to anyone open to seeing them. Some children repress their gender identity when they know they will gain only grief for it.

There is the suggestion that teenage children, especially those assigned female at birth, may suddenly decide that they are trans and seek treatment. There is a conviction where there was no sign of it before. Those asserting this tend to find the thought revolting.

Those who assert that “ROGD” is a thing, rather than a name for childhood gender dysphoria, say that it might be a social contagion brought on by suggestion, as some say anorexia can be. There are pro-ana groups promoting anorexia as a lifestyle, though it can threaten health and stop menstruation, just as testosterone might. If transition revolts you, you might be prone to see it as a way of fleeing independent adult womanhood akin to anorexia. These feminists know that womanhood, and fertility, can be very scary. Men come on to teenage girls, follow and assault them, do not take “no” for an answer- only “I have a boyfriend”, perhaps, claiming to be some man’s property rather than being entitled to decide and refuse in my own right- and this is dangerous. Claiming to be a man is a way of escaping that.

So they claim that teenage “girls” are “mutilated and medicalised”, rather than treated. The child wears a binder, which constricts breathing, and craves chest masculinisation surgery (“mastectomy”). This revolts the ROGD theorist. Why should you want a healthy part of yourself cut off? We are sad for women who have to suffer lumpectomy for cancer, and the NHS offers reconstructive surgery. I sympathise. I like my breasts and would not want to lose them. But I can empathise: chest-masc surgery changes the way others look at you, and I can understand someone might want it. I have seen the delight people have in it.

If there were a theorist who believed that ROGD was a thing, a phenomenon distinguishable from other types of childhood gender dysphoria, who was not also repulsed by current surgical treatment for female to male gender dysphoria or gender incongruence, I would be more likely to believe in it.

There is a place for people who want to resolve the distress of gender dysphoria by some means other than transition, hormones and surgery. A patient might explore their personality and character with the aim of casting off restricting inhibitions and accepting themselves. Transition is not the only treatment for people who find “femininity” constraining. However, transition alleviates distress and enables people to accept themselves, in a way they could not before.

Those who advance the hypothesis are revolted by “girls” transitioning. They think the “girls” should be supported into accepting womanhood, and supported in subverting restrictive feminine roles as women. They are not fit to research their idea, unless they can accept that sometimes transition is right for a person. Rather than supporting a teenager in becoming an adult, they want to restrict the way the teenager knows he can thrive.

I am told that gender dysphoria can have a rapid onset, where someone with an intersex condition receives a new hormone treatment. That is not what the transphobic campaigners are exercised about.

Trans women in prison

When will trans women be placed in women’s prisons in the UK? Having a gender recognition certificate does not mean we will be put in a women’s prison, but it helps.

Before sentencing, you might disclose transgender status so that a proper pre-sentencing report can be prepared and sentencing take account of it.

The prison authorities should attempt to determine the legal gender of a prisoner at the first point of contact. They don’t trust prisoners, oddly enough, so asking the prisoner is not the only way of deciding. If a prisoner shows a GRC that is proof; the authorities may ask the prisoner to produce a birth certificate, but not a GRC. Like cis women, trans women with a GRC can be placed in men’s prisons where the risk posed to other offenders and/or staff prevents location in the female estate. That is, the rules for trans women with a GRC, and cis women, being placed in men’s prisons are the same. Women, cis or trans, in the male estate must be held separately “according to a female prisoner regime”- under the rules in the Prison Service Order on women prisoners, PSO 4800. I can’t find specific rules on assessing risk, or what risk is sufficient for such a decision. There may be claims under human rights law.

Trans men who do not have a GRC should stay in women’s prisons if they ask to. The guidance does not say trans men with a GRC can ask to stay in women’s prisons, for example if they fear the men’s estate.

Trans women without a GRC must be allowed to present according to their gender identity, and the prison authorities must ensure the opportunity. They are allowed to change their name on the system if they have not gone through any formal name change procedure before, but may be kept in men’s prison.

Female prisoners are allowed to wear their own clothes, and the guidance allows trans women (even in the male estate) to do so too, explaining it’s necessary to ensure they can live in their true gender. They are not allowed suits, which might imitate the management team. They are allowed breast forms and wigs, and Make up that is vital to presenting in the gender identified with, such as foundation to cover facial hair, may not be restricted.

To get into women’s prison they must wish to live consistently in the gender with which they identify, and there are two choices, male and female. The word now is “transgender”, referring to “mannerisms, appearance, pronouns etc.” “Transsexual” is no longer used because it refers to sex and anatomy. So someone who wants surgery is included, but no desire for surgery or hormones is necessary.

They are asked for evidence of living in the gender role outside. Strong evidence includes a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, hormones or surgery, but that is not full evidence. Consistent gender expression is strong evidence, shown by ID or bank cards. The document suggests “counter evidence”- that the decision to transition is precipitated by the sentence, any evidence that the prisoner seeks to buck the system, or diagnosis of personality disorder or narcissistic traits. Trans women are not immune to personality disorder, so this may be unfair. It even says “transitioning decision may be linked to gaining access to future victims”. And that at someone’s lowest point, being imprisoned, they decide to transition, taking control of this vital aspect of our lives, makes complete sense to me.

A Transgender Case Board must be convened within three days of reception in prison. It decides where to put the prisoner, based on evidence of living in the gender identity and on risk factors. A local Transgender Review Board can review new information or evidence. There is also a centrally managed Complex Case Board for offenders who present a significant risk of harm, to themselves or others.

So, on paper the system seems reasonable. However trans women commit crimes and suicide in prison, and are victims of violence from male and female prisoners, even from staff. Prisons are dangerous and unfit for human habitation. They are underfunded, privatised and poorly staffed. The danger to prisoners comes from these facts and not from anyone’s trans status. Trans women and all other prisoners should be safe in prison because the regime protects them, and that is not the case.

Why I am a Christian

Christianity is wonderful and beautiful. At its heart is Sacrament: regularly we meet with God and are loved and accepted. And Story: we are told myths which enrich us, such as: We are created in the image of God. Therefore we are

Loving
Creative
Powerful
Beautiful

The root of Christianity is the person of Jesus: a human being who is God. We are followers of Christ- the anointed one, his brothers and sisters, who tells us to be our full selves in our power, and act in Love. The Spirit is in us, and when we are our full selves, self-actualised and self-defined, we can shed the small person we learned we were, and follow the guidance of this indwelling Spirit.

Christianity is a Way, of becoming our best selves. Albert Einstein: Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison [of ego] by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. We are part of all that is.

Christianity also provides community. We are followers together. We can bring up immature persons, who want a clear framework of rules to regulate their own behaviour in order to feel safe. More mature Christians can give guidance, but we are all followers, all on the Way.

Christian spiritual practices can facilitate universal human spiritual experiences. In contemplative prayer or in the Quaker meeting we enter immediate communication, through our senses rather than through words. Art can give us this too: if I sit with an art work it communicates directly to my feeling self. We know we are a part of the Whole. We are not alone. I can experience this in nature, seeing a tree or a wild animal- this is why some people hug trees- and there are stories separate from Christianity expounding this, as in William Blake’s

see the world in a grain of sand
and Heaven in a wild flower

-there are other spiritual Ways to full humanity- but Christianity is my Way, the Way I have walked since childhood.

Through art, nature and my Quaker meeting I can be Opened to reality. The world is magical, more beautiful and real, and I am myself as God created me.

Christianity must Change or Die, wrote John Shelby Spong, Episcopal Bishop of Newark, and though I have not read that book I agree. Christianity is infected with exclusivity, the thought that only Christianity will do as the Way to God, even that those outside the Christian community are damned. Partly this can be dealt with through translation. Jesus said,

I Am is the way, the truth and the life. No-one can come to the Father except through I Am.

That is, it is through being ourselves as created by God, not attempting to conform to some set of rules drafted by men (non-inclusive language intentional, “the white fathers” is Audre Lorde’s phrase) that we are able to relate to God.

For too many people, Christianity is a belief system, so what we believe is more important than what we do or how we relate to each other. It is how we relate that matters, not believing impossible things. If a virgin giving birth is impossible, that should not be a barrier to being Christian. We can be gentle with each other- because relating is more important than believing- hearing others’ beliefs in a gentle spirit. For scientific enquiry, rigorous clear explanation may work; for religious truth, mystery and paradox fit better. Even for scientific enquiry, mystery and paradox may be inescapable: light is a wave, and a particle.

And Christianity is disfigured by too close a relationship with the apparatus of State power, as with the Emperor Constantine, President Putin wooing Patriarch Kirill, or the Queen as the head of the Church of England. Christianity has been a State ideology, enforcing obedience on the subjects. It must free itself from all such temptations. “My kingdom is not of this world.” That has made it emphasise personal morality, especially sexual morality which prevents us from connecting with our deepest selves, who are Free and powerful and feared as a threat to rulers and the powers of the world. Part of the reason I assert I am a Christian (rather than simply “on a spiritual path”) is to stand in the face of those who say you cannot be trans, or LGBT, and Christian.

My power is not a threat to the powers of the world, for it is a power of love and service; but overweening State power may feel it as a threat because it is independent. Over two thousand years, Christianity has held so much darkness, from arguments for enslaving Africans and supporting colonialism to oppressive power structures within individual parish churches; and yet at its best it is a Way for humans to reach our full potential in loving relationship.

“In my Father’s house are many rooms,” said Jesus, and Christianity at its best expands to fit what humans need. The Sea of Faith movement includes as Christians, even as priests, those who think God is metaphor rather than reality, and churches have always welcomed those who doubted the core beliefs yet wanted to remain in the community.

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde gives the consolation trans women need. I feel seen by her. I am reading Your silence will not protect you, a new British selection of her prose and poetry, of her most timeless works.

“We have been raised to fear the Yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings. But once recognised, those which do not enhance our future lose their power and can be altered. The fear of our desires keeps them suspect and indiscriminately powerful, for to suppress any truth is to give it strength beyond endurance. The fear that we cannot grow beyond any distortions that we may find within ourselves keeps us docile and loyal and obedient, externally defined, and leads us to accept many facets of our oppression.”

-from Uses of the Erotic: the Erotic as Power.

To gender-critical feminists opposing AFAB non-binary people whom they so resemble, from the point of view of everyone except themselves, I would quote from Scratching the Surface: Some notes to barriers to women and loving:

“The distortion of relationship which says ‘I disagree with you, so I must destroy you’ leaves us as Black people with basically uncreative victories, defeated in any common struggle… This kind of action is a prevalent error among oppressed peoples. It is based upon the false notion that there is only a particular and limited amount of freedom that must be divided up between us… so instead of joining together to fight for more, we quarrel between ourselves.”

Why do trans women not enjoy each others’ company more? StS: “For so long we have been encouraged to view each other with suspicion, as eternal competitors, or as the visible face of our own self-rejection.”

This is prose so rich and poetic that I feel moved to read it aloud, feeling each syllable in my mouth. From Poetry is not a luxury:

“That distillation of experience from which true poetry springs births thought as dream births concept, as feeling births idea, as knowledge births (precedes) understanding.” I know that. Truth comes to me as poetry before I know it intellectually. Here is her definition of the erotic, from UotE:

“The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognising its power, in honour and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves.”

From The transformation of silence into language and action:

“In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my mortality, and of what I wished and wanted for my life, however short it might be, priorities and omissions became strongly etched in a merciless light, and what I most regretted were my silences. Of what had I ever been afraid? To question or to speak as I believed could have meant pain, or death. But we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and pain will either change or end. Death, on the other hand, is the final silence. And that might be coming quickly, now, without regard for whether I had ever spoken what needed to be said, or had only betrayed myself into small silences, while I planned someday to speak, or waited for someone else’s words. And I began to recognise a source of power within myself that comes from the knowledge that while it is most desirable not to be afraid, learning to put fear into a perspective gave me great strength.”

Audre Lorde speaks for me and inspires me. Yet this is Black experience, lesbian experience, which is not my own and is in so many ways alien to my white, educated understanding. That shows me why we white people must be allies to Black people, because they see things we do not see, they can lead us to our own freedom, and her words “I am not free while anyone is unfree” is simply fact.

Lies and vilification

The outpouring of hatred against trans people in the UK is based on lies and distortions. The right-wing press has conducted a campaign of vilification against us, mocking and dehumanising us.

The facts are these. International human rights law says trans people are entitled to recognition in their true sex without any need for treatment to reduce our fertility. The Women and Equalities Committee of the House of Commons recommended that trans women should be treated as women, and for example not excluded from any women’s space. However, when the Minister announced the consultation in July 2017, she only proposed amending the law on gender recognition certificates, so that we would not be required to get a letter from a specialist psychiatrist saying we are trans, and prove two years’ expression in the acquired sex. The GRC has only symbolic value. Its only effect is to change your gender on your marriage certificate, if you get married afterwards.

Trans women can be excluded from women’s space, even after getting a GRC. That is covered by the Equality Act, which the Government has repeatedly confirmed will not be changed.

The gender critical campaign has focused entirely on women’s spaces, alleging a threat to women. Sometimes they are explicit that they mean a threat from trans women, sometimes they suggest that men might pretend to be trans women and they are not really against “genuine” trans women. For example, Sex self-ID would allow any man in Britain to get his birth certificate reissued in the opposite sex. Just like that. No delay. No change to his body. No medical supervision… spaces reserved by law for women and girls- changing rooms, domestic violence refuges and rape crisis centres- will find it impossible to remain male-free.

A lie. Or at best a stupid misunderstanding: campaigners do not always know what a GRC is or what it does.

For the purposes of expressing ourselves female, or even seeking a diagnosis, we have always had self-ID. The diagnostic criteria include our own belief that we are of the acquired gender. No-one ever goes to the doctor and has this conversation:

-Doctor, I think I’m a woman!
-No you’re not, you have testicles and a penis.
-Oh thank goodness, that’s such a relief.

Instead, the doctors are the gatekeepers for the hormones and surgery we want so much.

A search for trans self-ID meme finds some trans-friendly images, but also some pretty horrible stuff. The Times, a Rupert Murdoch paper once thought of as a newspaper of record, has hideous headlines:

Stonewall backing transgender bullies

Feminist’s poster removed after complaint from transgender activist

Obsession with gender identity goes too far

Transgender muffin exercise sends wrong message– alleging that cis children are being told they are trans.

That’s just the first four headlines from a search today, on Google. A search on The Times website finds

Lecturer’s job fear after raising trans concerns– 30 October

Activists thwart [academic] work on gender law reforms- 28 October

We’re on a slippery slope over hate speech- 27 October.

Labour members punished over transgender facebook debate- 24 October

Trans extremists are putting equality at risk- 22 October.

The Spectator, meanwhile, has It’s not transphobic to question transgenderism and Is transgender ideology making the UK’s mental health crisis worse? Five articles in the print magazine since April, and seven more since September on their website. How Caroline Lucas fell foul of the transgender thought-police– as if we were the powerful ones, oppressing everyone else. Bullies, thought-police, punishing, getting people sacked, suppressing free speech. And yet I’m the one who gets shouted at in the street.

When people call me a threat, they incite self-righteous, “defensive” violence against me. They put me in fear.

Being misgendered

-Are you finished with these, sir?
-I’m female.
-I apologise.

I am still irked by that. She could not see my face, I think. My waterproof jacket is fairly unisex but fastens the feminine way. That wig, again, is clearly a woman’s wig, the woman’s side of the line, even if it’s fairly close to the line. It’s a well-marked line.

Now, I am thinking some day I will have the energy for the follow-through:

-I apologise.
-Well, don’t “Sir” people unless their gender is clear! There’s no point in having “All-Gender Toilets” if you misgender people!

It didn’t really- well not really really– bother me until later, when I was in the Turner Prize exhibition, which this year is all video. They are close to documentaries, in parts. Naeem Mohaiemen’s work is a history of the Non-Aligned movement, worth seeing from beginning to end, though it is on three screens and has the feel of looking at an art work. To me; some commenters said that’s not art that’s documentaries.

Charlotte Prodger’s work is 33 minutes long, and consists of video taken on her phone, with bits of her diary read as voiceover. She had had a job near Banchory, and I wondered if anyone else in the room had been there, or at least through it, like me. She is lesbian, at least sometimes she presents Butch, and part of the voiceover says how at the ferry terminal she was washing her hands in the toilets and a party of women came in, and one went out again to look at the door, then said “I thought I was in the wrong one for a moment”. And how wearing it was when people asked her who her girlfriend is. “Is she your daughter?” Eventually she said “She’s my friend” and thought, now I’m closeted as well.

There is paradox here. She (I checked her pronouns) is misgendered repeatedly, and the thought that a woman could be her partner is seen as remarkable, yet she is up for a huge accolade, notoriety in the right-wing press, and £40,000 if she wins the prize. Highbrows like me, and the odd idiot who goes out and writes the comment “That’s not Art!” on the comments wall, (Actually that’s so stupid, surely it must be irony?)-

onywye, I am watching this Installation feeling intense powerlessness exacerbated by her frank admission of failing to respond to being misgendered, and the middle-class white straight men, well, it might just go over their heads. What’s this wumman on about?

On the comments wall, I took two pieces of paper marked in large letters

Power

and scrawled, “Charlotte was misgendered in the CalMac lavs. I was misgendered in the Tate Gallery Members’ Room” on one and “I have the

Power

to say I exist” on the other. Then I took lots of wee pins and stuck them all over these pieces of paper, skewering the word “Power” and each of the “I”s.

So there.

Waiting for the film/installation to start, I sat by a low table leafing through the books there. One is on queer art, another is a selection of the poems and essays of Audre Lorde specifically for the British market called

Your silence will not protect you

So now I have a book of Audre Lorde, to help me be an ally to ethnic minority people and, perhaps, help me survive.

What if I had shouted out in the showing that I had been misgendered? There were workers in the Duveen Gallery working with children, with suggestions as to participate in art, and when I said I too like to be playful the man gave me a pair of drumsticks. I noticed how the sound they made was different hitting with the tip or the middle of the stick, and investigated the sounds. I could break people’s absorption in the art work, and that distraction would be like Brecht’s alienation technique, they would see it in a new way. But the rooms showing the videos are carpeted, and I just hit the sticks together occasionally, very quietly. And if I had shouted, people would be too well-bred (or something) to show they noticed.

I had a fabulous day. I also spent hours with the Burne Jones exhibition. Pieces here come from the ordinary displays a few rooms away, and from as far as Stuttgart or Melbourne. Is not Madeleine Vivier-Deslandes utterly beautiful? There were so many beautiful things. There’s Perseus stealing the Graeae eye, on oak, and his armour is silver, and their dresses gold. The grey sisters are young, here. One has her pretty face and empty sockets turned to us. There’s a huge tapestry, of Gawain contemplating the Holy Grail and his two companions blocked by three angels from approaching. The trees are dark, and the wild flowers Botticellian. So, the Pre-Raphaelite descent into myth and fancy, before Freud, how ridiculous- except Madeleine is, perhaps, “chimeric, disordered and suffering”. All those buttons on her cuffs undone, and that bodice, so easily ripped. I went in ready for my irony to be exercised, and was entranced- and just a little disturbed. Just now and then.

Understanding, empathy, solidarity

Debbie [Hayton] understands the reality of who she is and the relationship that can exist between women and transsexual women if we have understanding, empathy and solidarity with each other. Understanding, empathy and solidarity are valuable. You cannot require them from anyone else.

Here’s an example. In Prospect magazine the former editor of The Tablet complains of anti-Catholic prejudice in Britain, and I sympathise. We should condemn the belief, not the person. Free speech of a Catholic kind is outlawed, she thunders. She is referring to anti-abortion campaigners handing out leaflets to women entering an abortion clinic in Ealing.

Those Catholic, Evangelical and perhaps agnostic anti-abortion campaigners are not just stating their beliefs. They might just hold out a leaflet, or they might thrust it at a woman in need. Some women’s lives could be ruined if the embryo inside them became a child. Some women carry deformed foetuses, for example anencephalic monstrosities that will die almost immediately if brought to birth. The campaigners seek to shame women and make them fear. This is not just a matter of freedom of speech. Catholics thunder against abortion in pulpits and publications ad nauseam, and here, in the sometime-progressive Prospect.

I know of no-one who seeks a termination frivolously. Perhaps some empathy is possible. I don’t know where it might start. I had a Catholic friend who was repulsed by abortion- we did not discuss the morning after pill or anencephaly, but at least I know she did not agree with the current laws restricting abortion, and wanted them stricter. Empathy can go so far. We can say yes, we find terminations unpleasant, not least for the risk to the woman and the unpleasantness of the procedure, and want easily-accessible birth control and a proper understanding of Consent and personal responsibility to reduce the number of terminations necessary, but if the “pro-life” side thinks that misses the point we can’t go much further. And if they say their empathy is for the Child being killed, and they imagine there is suffering greater than the woman’s, we can’t communicate further.

Understanding and empathy can go so far. Whenever I go into a loo, there is a risk that someone in it will read me as trans and be revolted or scared. I don’t know how big that risk is. I do not want to scare anyone and the thought that I would revolt someone makes me utterly sad. I might ask to join a particular women’s group, and would not push if refused, even if explicitly because I am trans, but I am not going to stop using toilets. I don’t know if that commenter’s empathy means requiring me to use the men’s, and a vague sense of regret if I am assaulted there. It is one or the other. Empathy cannot decide. I have been challenged, commenting in The Guardian: am I certain no woman was ever frightened by my presence? That is a fairly neutral space, where she would have been trying to appear reasonable and persuade undecided people. There is a time when I assert, “I exist”. I cannot make myself into nothing, for anyone.

I am aware of the gender wars in which I participate unwillingly. “Rape culture” and “Patriarchy” are meaningful to me, descriptions of the world as it is with the oppression of women, which matters intensely to me. I know it is nothing personal if a woman is frightened of me for what I symbolise rather than who I am. And yet, still, I exist. I cannot consent to a world which makes no space for me. Transition is a thing people do, however difficult it is.

“I am male” says Debbie Hayton, in the post that commenter admired so much. Well, that does not take us very far. I am a human being in a very complex culture, with particular gifts and qualities which have led me to transition- and she is the same. I imagine she goes to the loo when she needs, even to the women’s. For some people, it would not be enough that she reverted and never presented female again, as she had for a time claimed to be a woman.

“I accept women’s boundaries,” she says. Well, again. I accept the boundaries of some women. I cannot accept boundaries which would change my life completely, especially not from someone on the internet whom I will never meet. Even Debbie probably transgresses someone’s boundaries, simply by calling herself “Debbie”.

Being controlled

I was completely under her thumb. I had no thought of my own. She decided everything, as if I were hollowed out and her idea of what I should be poured in to fill the gap.

I am sorry if I have brought you here on false pretenses. This is not a sexual fantasy, but reality, just how it was. It was trauma: Trauma is the experience of being powerless to establish a boundary between our self and that which is about to inflict, or is already inflicting, serious harm or even death. It is one of the most acute forms of suffering that a human being can know. It is the experience of imminent annihilation, writes James Finley.

So now I have lost my confidence, completely. Something bad will happen that I will not understand, or be able to predict, or avoid. I will face- the employer, the monster, the person with power, and I will die. That I know this conviction is totally irrational does not take away any of its power.

My mother was completely controlling. She had me because that was the conventional thing, not because she wanted me. It was very hard for her, but convention was important. I recognise that she did her absolute best for me, as parents do.

I had some control over what I ate, but only to refuse. So almost every night I ate rissoles beans and chips (not always chips) separately from what my Mum, Dad and sister ate. These things are negotiated. I have no memory of how this came to be, but remember that when I was about fourteen my Mum went off to look after my grandfather, my Dad ate my diet while she was away (my sister was away at school) and said how dry and horrible it was. When I went to University I quickly came to eat anything, and now I say I would eat anything any culture would offer honoured guests.

Clothes: Of course parents get clothes for children, and living so far from shops it was difficult, but my mother made shorts for me until I went to secondary school. The other boys were in long trousers in winter of course. When I said it showed I could stand the cold my sister was derisive: “So you’re the wee toughie, are you?” I wore shirts and ties at weekends.

I had the sense of us being apart from the community, with my parents. My sister was part of it (the school was comprehensive, boarding, the nearest that had a fifth and sixth year of secondary). My father, a teacher, allowed me to sit in the classroom and read rather than go outside during breaks. Normally, children get their accent from their peers, but I got mine from my English mother.

Attitudes, beliefs, understandings, ways of being: all from my parents. In my thirties I decided it was time to rebel against my parents, and I have been doing teenage ever since, that is, thinking for myself, or at least absorbing ideas from other sources than ones they approved.

My mother was distressed when I was very small, when I did not respond well to all her hard work. The trauma began then for me, her inner critic creating my own. What I remember is the outworking of the control, not its initiation. And it came because she so rigidly controlled herself, as she had been controlled, the sins of the fathers visited on the children.

I watched The Cry on BBC1. Episode 3 is a compelling portrait of coercive control: every line counts. I could hardly bear to watch it, feeling all the horror. Perhaps because of that, I am able, now, to state that I bear that trauma: the inner critic saying what I say is simply ridiculous, no-one would possibly believe it, is quieter, or perhaps I believe it less. And, adult experiences have damaged my confidence; but it is that small-child reaction, the terror of imminent death, that prevents me acting.

Pride, shame, honour, desire

Everyone must understand trans pride- queer pride- for themselves.

Shame relates to who you are, guilt to what you do. I feel guilt about particular actions, shame about what they reveal about me. And queer people are systematically shamed, made to believe who we are is shameful. You look inside yourself and find effeminacy when you should be masculine, when you can only be valued if you are properly masculine, and you feel shame. And I thought, my shame is overwhelming, like an over-exposed photograph, all white. If I am ashamed of everything, I cannot see what to change. I am simply shameful, entirely.

Shame is a tool. It has been used against me, and I can still use it to my own advantage, by claiming it as mine, by seeing what is another’s choice of what I should be ashamed of, and substituting pride.

I am who I am. Who I am is a good thing to be.

I keep going round in circles. I wrote, more than ten years ago,

It hurt so much, and it’s stopped.
Who I am is who I ought to be.
I can be me.
I can be free.

But that was in a poem, and I find things through poetry before I find them through prose.

Shame then becomes a tool, for my use and not for others to impose upon me. If I value myself and have a sense of my own worth, my own dignity, shame becomes a feeling I feel occasionally, for something indicating a departure from what I value, some course correction needed. So, where I was shamed for not being sufficiently masculine, now I feel shame where I attempt to put on a masculine persona, rather than being myself unmasked.

I tried to make a man of myself, in the past. I am not ashamed of that. It was the best I could do at the time.

Pride is called a deadly sin. We know it has value, an appropriate self-regard protecting us from shameful acts, and the word “Pride”, claiming what is a sin, shocks those who ought to be shocked, rubs in their faces that they cannot shame us with false shame any more. But generally I prefer honour. Pride is a sin in that it holds me above others, devalues them. So, honour, as a noun and a verb: I have honour, and I honour others. I will accord myself, and others, their proper value, according to my own honour. “I-it” relationships devalue me as well as the other.

Honour and shame become tools for achieving what I desire, actualising my humanity. I came to this conscious realisation through meditation, but it has been sitting inside me for a long time. I knelt in my ritual space, and it came to me. Shame and desire are my tools not my oppressors’: I must want things for myself, not just to fit to the rules of others. I need to find better treats than checking blog stats on my laptop. What I have wanted is just to withdraw. Unrequited desire continues to hurt. So far, this is all about seeing myself, being myself: being this in relationship with other humans is much more complex.

I may be the most screwed-up person you will meet, outside a prison or mental hospital. I am the human curled in a ball, traumatised, and the human reaching out a sympathetic hand- and I am also the whip, the human seeking to drive myself onwards for things I did not desire and were not proper to me as I truly am. The internalised parent, perhaps. I am the hurt, the carer, the drive; the traumatised being, the angel, the whip; these three parts dance around each other, coalesce and divide, at some times are two, others three. All are in me. I will value and integrate them. I will bring myself to birth.