Academic debates, trans lives

Erudite academics applying philosophical techniques to the nature of trans affect my life, but only if I let them.

Prof. Kelli Oliver protests that she is openly bisexual and has mentored women and students of colour in her male-dominated discipline, in order to eliminate injustice and inequality. I find myself in an educational environment in which outrage, censoring and public shaming has begun to replace critique, disagreement and debate. She is still getting hate mail after defending Rebecca Tuvel, who wrote an article comparing transracialism to transgender. One way we delegitimise Nkechi Amare Diallo is by using her former name, though she has changed it, an act equivalent to deadnaming a trans person.

Mmm. Deadnaming. Prof. Oliver pointed out that Caitlyn Jenner herself refers to “Bruce”: I will refer to the name Bruce when I think it appropriate. Bruce existed for sixty-five years, and Caitlyn is just going on her second birthday. That’s the reality. I feel it behoves me to bear references to Stephen. I have enough ways for people to provoke me, without that. Yet deadnaming distresses many transitioned people: it is a way of denying the reality of transition and gender identity, the person’s gender and right to assert it.

Deadnaming is unfriendly. I can imagine psychologists or philosophers debating these matters in an academic setting, and if Rebecca Tuvel’s journal article had just been in print in University libraries perhaps no-one would have objected to it. However, it was available on-line, and so the least active transactivist and lots of incipient trans folk, as well as people of colour who objected to “Rachel Dolezal”, read it and got angry. As Kelli Oliver says, some who were in a position to ruin Rebecca Tuvel’s career read it and objected.

What you don’t know rarely hurts you. Had it been only available in print in a scholarly journal, trans activists would not have heard of it, and few might have bothered to communicate objection if they had to type a letter and use a stamp- perhaps even dictating rather than writing, in my first job I used a dictaphone to dictate letters for secretaries to type. Now, it is online, and gains notoriety. People read it. We are hurt by it. Transracialism is not accepted by black people, and I don’t like it compared to transgender. Others can make moral or practical distinctions, but finding those is effort.

I stop being able to ignore Rebecca Tuvel. People talk about her. So she affects me, threatening to delegitimise me. I have no safe space. Just as once there was a Gender Recognition Certificate I had to have one, so now Rebecca Tuvel impinges on my consciousness and that of other trans folk I have to read her.

The Guardian had an article saying that teenagers were not having gender surgery. Comments were opened, and people saying prejudiced things about trans people had a field day. Their comments got lots of upvotes. Some suggested that the Transgender Day of Remembrance was a fraud, that there was no evidence murder rates of trans folk were any higher than the general population. A few trans folk answered, and were abused.

Any TERF can join a TERF bubble, and learn horrible words like autogynephilia, or about assaults on cis women by trans women, including sexual assaults. Then they can come out and attack us with them. Articles about transracialism, or by Anne Lawrence, are used to attack us. And yet it need only affect me if I let it, if I read the hostile articles and the difficult arguments. People will transition, whatever the climate of hostility. Perhaps no-one I know IRL would read them, but me. I could just cut myself off from all this ferment, simply by switching off my computer, and no-one I know IRL would care. But I am drawn to it, however much it stresses me. Academic freedom has to take account of the casualties.

Possibly it would be better if philosophers and psychologists could debate trans in ivory towers, find a solution and just apply it. Actually, no, we have fought for what we have, it gives us a sense of agency. We are part of this argument. We know what we want. If academics debated, then lawmakers followed their recommendations, the world would be like the prayer of Teilhard de Chardin, archaeologist and mystic:

Ah, you know it yourself, Lord, through having borne the anguish of it as a man: on certain days the world seems a terrifying thing: huge, blind, and brutal. . . . At any moment the vast and horrible thing may break in through the cracks—the thing which we try hard to forget is always there, separated from us by a flimsy partition: fire, pestilence, storms, earthquakes, or the unleashing of dark moral forces—these callously sweep away in one moment what we had laboriously built up and beautified with all our intelligence and all our love.

Since my human dignity, O God, forbids me to close my eyes to this . . . teach me to adore it by seeing you concealed within it.

But then the world is.

Kelly Oliver in NYT.

Trans identity

Some people are trans. How much of that is innate, and how much cultural? I say effeminate men might find transition attractive. Others say that people with the sexual orientation of autogynephilia transition- in that case I am bisexual between an autogynephilic orientation and a gynephile orientation, as I am attracted to women other than myself. The real world is more complex than theories can portray.

Others say the phenomenon is Trans, where female souls/brains/psyches in male bodies are only happy once transitioned, and children as young as three can experience bodily dysphoria, loathing their penises. This is the “trans ideology” so hated by the TERFs. If I am really a woman, of course I should be allowed in women’s space. I say I am sort-of culturally a woman, an anomaly, so should be tolerated in women’s space, because the majority of women so tolerate me, and because I am harmless and we are mostly harmless.

Or I could say that I am Different, so for the comfort of the Normal people I have to be shoved into a box, and when I could not tolerate the Man box the Transwoman box was the other one available. The goal of Diversity is that no-one should be shoved into a box.

Possibly what you want to do governs what you think about it. I wanted to transition, so I thought I was transsexual. And what your identity is affects what you do. I thought true transsexuals had sex reassignment surgery, so I had sex reassignment surgery. So there are different names for it, validating it- gender confirmation surgery is the latest I heard. Neovagina, says the surgeon, making it sound good. “Fxxk hole”, says the radical feminist, communicating her contempt.

This post about identity is written by someone who opposes transition. People approach medical services saying they are trans, and seeking medical reassignment. Their identity is that of a trans person. They believe they are a trans person, and that that means hormones and surgery. Lisa Marchiano wishes to treat gender dysphoria as a symptom, and explore with her patient what that symptom means. Gender dysphoria causes distress. The identity model says the person is trans, and the way to alleviate the distress is medical transition. Marchiano is against transition: it is a “drastic, permanent medical intervention”, leading to “permanent, life-long sterility 100% of the time”. One never reads in such articles that transition makes some people happier and higher-functioning, but it does. I would be happier if the writers admitted the value of transition for the patient in some cases.

She values self-identity. We tell ourselves stories about ourselves. I identify as Quaker, Scots, English, cultured. These things matter to me. The therapist accepting them empowers me. The therapist only challenges them if they lead to maladaptive behaviour. Yet how can I know myself? I identified the Real Me as female, but now identify it as feminine. I am a pansy. My self-identification often is changed by the words I use. I seek more accurate words. She says gender dysphoria does not mean necessarily that I am trans, but that the therapist needs to explore the meaning of the symptom and be open to what emerges. That she questions self-identity as trans does not mean she treats the symptom as unimportant or illusory.

She breaks down gender dysphoria into separate symptoms, including alienation from ones body. I hated the slimness of my arms, because it seemed weak and unmanly. Now I love my arms and hands, which I find beautiful. Finding a way to accept me as me, rather than accept aspects of my body because they fit “woman” and I identify as “trans woman”- accepting what is, and finding the good in it- would have been better than transitioning, if only I could have pulled it off. Teenage girls are alienated from their bodies by porn culture, and she says they decide transition is the answer due to a social contagion: it is the answer they find, and they latch onto it, then seek out evidence to confirm it, which they find in many sites providing mutual reassurance. (As do the radical feminists who decide we are monstrous then seek evidence and reassurance to confirm that.) I was homophobic and femmephobic- a man should not be feminine, I thought. It was not internalised transphobia, but femmephobia. How much better to relieve my self-loathing than to force me into the trans-woman box which I thought fitted my feminine self!

She says there are often other mental health conditions. One doctor said I had narcissistic personality traits, another denied it, and those traits might cause or be caused by the dysphoria, but finding a way of alleviating them might make the dysphoria less serious.

I see no evidence that she accepts transition as an appropriate course for anyone. She attacks “transgender ideology” as incoherent. She says there is no basis for a “gender identity” (her scare-quotes) that supersedes “objective biological sex”. This makes her assessment of research on outcomes suspect, though I doubt you would find an objective meta-analysis, untainted by any desire to affirm or deny transition as a treatment. Her reference to “a late-transitioning MtT autogynephile” links to Anne Lawrence. That is hostile. Here she writes that trans people exist, and should be protected; but she would rather manage gender dysphoria without transition. I feel her position has hardened further since. But I agree that we should explore the anima and animus, male and female, within ourselves.

I love her desire to explore deeply the sources of distress and seek varied possible solutions. That is not the NHS model, which favours quick fixes, even bodges. We would see the person in front of us in all of their miraculous complexity, and not just as a “gender identity,” she says. If only!

 

Trans and culture

Some people are gay. Get over it, as they say. More precisely, some people are same-sex attracted, and “gay” is a useful cultural response to that, a way of containing and explaining the various effects same sex attraction has on people.

Strip away the culture from trans, and what is left? People from widely different cultures live as the opposite sex. Hijras are hijras, Femminielli are femminielli, presenting as women but not seen as women. Elagabalus proclaimed herself “Empress” of Rome, rather than Emperor, a rare example of a transitioned woman with the power to insist. People squabble over instances of those found to be female-bodied after careers as soldiers or physicians- were they transitioning from identity, or were they women choosing that way to survive in a man’s world? Hijra have penis and testicles removed, and so do many modern European trans women.

What is the common factor underlying all these cultural responses? Whether people, either gay or straight, are promiscuous or prefer long term partnerships depends partly on circumstances; I read in the eighties writers disgusted by gay people who said they were promiscuous, and that was disgusting, but also immature and unserious and a sign that homosexuality was pathological, yet I am aware of life-partnerships from before 1967, the date of partial decriminalisation in England. So too trans responses may depend on circumstances. If transgenderists in the old sense, living full time presenting female but not using hormones or surgery, were seen by anyone as “women” I doubt they would object.

If trans women had surgery because they thought it made them women, or made others believe they were women, or believe that they had some medical condition which was properly treated by surgery and therefore they lost the stigma of a sexual pervert, that would mean surgery arose from circumstances, was a cultural response rather than a part of the underlying phenomenon. If the advantage you obtain from the operation is wholly symbolic, it is still an advantage; but society might be better if we could be accepted without having to be mutilated.

There is not only the phenomenon of trans, and cultural expressions of it, but reactions to it and cultural expressions of that. Some say it is a delusion, harmful to the sufferer and to other people who are affected by the sufferer’s actions, and some say it is part of ordinary human diversity. Decent people indulge arachnophobes, taking care to check whether there are spiders and getting rid of any, rather than telling them to pull themselves together.

I say there is a phenomenon of feminine or effeminate men, who do not fit the masculine stereotype, who transition because they fit the feminine stereotype better. If that is the case, the belief in onesself being a woman would come from shame at not fitting masculinity, then seeing the cultural expression of transition. Aha! An answer! The concept of transition arising from gender dysphoria does not require there to be just two genders, and everyone is either one or the other, only that the person transitioning believes that. So the concept of non-binary or gender queer will subvert traditional transition: I do not fit masculinity, but I can find some other way of being, rather than pretend to be a woman.

As people debate these questions, their motivations affect their answers. Are they trying to subvert rigid gender roles by supporting transition, or to protect people from mutilation by preventing it? Do they see trans folk as a threat? Do they seek our best interests, or seek to use us for some other campaign? Are they phobic about us, letting disgust and fear run riot because they imagine it is rational and reasonable, or are they objective?

In the world without Patriarchy, would anyone transition?

Real self, female self

In 1998/99, I became aware of something in me, which I called at first the “vulnerable bit”- I am the effective, sane, normal human being and inside there is this hurting and easily hurt part of me which I do not understand. In February 1999 I understood it was the Real me, me behind my mask: I had lived with my pretense so long I had thought the mask was who I am, and now I found who I really was. I had to let the real me out. Shortly after, I identified that Real me as female.

We make stories about ourselves. This is the story I wrote in my diary at the time. By then I had been cross-dressing for twenty years, had been to the Sibyls and associated with other trans women, and seen a consultant psychotherapist claiming to be transsexual- he said I was not. But then a psychiatrist had said I had transsexual tendencies eight years before. I was aware of the concepts of TS, seen as a person with a medical condition, and TV, what I had thought I was and saw as a disgusting pervert, and might blame myself less if I were TS, but would have life harder as transition is difficult. It took me another 21 months to decide to transition. I had written fantasies about being physically turned into a woman by strong, controlling women following their own desires in my teens, and as that psychotherapist, Graeme McGrath, said, if you fantasise about being dominated, you are still in complete control of your fantasy but have fantasised another character who liberates you from guilt and responsibility.

I was aroused by cross-dressing, I masturbated while cross-dressed and initially took the clothes off immediately afterwards, and I had erotic dreams about cross-dressing. I found that completely shameful. I did not have erotic dreams about sex with others.

I don’t feel sexual arousal by itself would make anyone transition. Fiona spent a week cross-dressed and at the end was sick of it. I consider all these stories, all these ideas, put the pieces together in order to understand and underneath it all is what I do and what I desire…

McGrath asked what I wanted. I said I wanted to be a housewife, and my memory is that just by snorting and facial expression he indicated dismissive contempt of this impossible fantasy.

Anne Lawrence suggests that autogynephilia, love of onesself as a woman, is a sexual orientation, and that after a phase of lust it settles into romantic love. Just as people who love other people form a partnership sustained by affection and attachment, so we transition and our state of being our female selves involves, as well as arousal, the other elements, such as admiration, affection, beneficence, and desire for closeness, that are usually associated with the word love, broadly construed, and that are considered to be expressive of a person’s sexual orientation.

I have rejected this idea, and I have stories of the rejection. It does not fit the facts. Or, perhaps, thinking autogynephilia is stigmatising and wanting to avoid stigma and wanting to involve judging myself, I can’t accept that. Those who insist I am autogynephiliac would say any denial by a trans person is simply special pleading. Actually, if I say I could not avoid transition without even greater self-suppression and self-hatred than I have suffered, I might avoid the judgment and stigma at least in my own mind, if not that of the most contemptuous TERF. I could not help myself! I would still judge myself, though. I should not be like this!

The moral argument is that we should be accepted, because this is who we are, and it is not a choice, even if it is a “paraphilic sexual orientation”. We could not help ourselves. The stigma, and internalised stigma, is such that you do not do this unless you cannot resist it. Though I still feel that gender dysphoria causing arousal by female embodiment fantasies makes far more sense than autogynephilia existing separately from gender dysphoria, then causing it.

I identified my real self as female, and transitioned. If now I argue that we should identify ourselves as feminine men, I could just be creating more anguish for trans women. They will transition eventually, I will just have fuelled their internal conflict, self-stigmatisation, and suffering. In Blanchard and Lawrence’s theory, the desire for hormones and an approximation to female genitals is part of the love of onesself as a woman, so we have the operation for that, not because of social pressure. The clothes are not enough.

This would mean that rapid onset gender dysphoria, and possibly all FTM transgender, is a different phenomenon.

“Rapid Onset” Gender dysphoria

The parents’ stories are heartbreaking. These usually involve a teen who was anxious, depressed, socially isolated, or suffering from PTSD coming to identify as trans after internet binges on social media sites. These parents report that mental health professionals are validating the self-diagnosis of transgender after a handful of therapy sessions, without any exploration of prior mental health issues, trauma, sexual orientation, or history of gender nonconforming behavior. This clearly violates APA recommendations, which urge special caution in treating adolescents who present with sudden onset dysphoria.

This is the basis of a great deal of hatred of “trans activists” and opposition to transition. So, is it true? There are stories of young women who went through a phase in their teens of desiring top-surgery, but their parents help them avoid that- and these young women feel they have had a lucky escape. Of course they are young women, not trans men. And here is a story of “wreckage”, where the child is distanced from their parents, who feel the diagnosis is wrong.

After a 30-minute consultation with a physician’s assistant, Molly was given an appointment for the following week to begin testosterone injections. There was no exploration of her other physical and mental health issues, and whether these may have influenced her belief that she was trans.

Testosterone can have a serious effect on a female body, even at the first injection. These are the stories feminists tell each other. I found it after an ill-advised attempt to find common ground on Mumsnet: the comment thread referred us to it, calling it “a heartbreaking tale of social contagion”. It contravenes the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) guidelines

(pdf)

which state,

The criteria for hormone therapy are as follows:
1. Persistent, well-documented gender dysphoria;
2. Capacity to make a fully informed decision and to consent for treatment;
3. Age of majority in a given country (if younger, follow the Standards of Care outlined in section VI);
4. If significant medical or mental health concerns are present, they must be reasonably well-controlled.

Dysphoria here is clearly not “well-documented”, arguably not “persistent”, and the mental health concerns should be assessed.

The PA (physician assistant) also suggested that Molly schedule top surgery – a double mastectomy – within a few months.

No wonder people are shocked, reading this sort of story. The WPATH guidelines say many people find comfort with altered gender expression without surgery, and qualified mental health professionals must make an assessment before surgery, and Assess, diagnose, and discuss treatment options for co-existing mental health concerns. Chest surgery may be carried out after one year of T and ample time of living in the desired gender role.

The parents said they wanted time to think and research, and at first the child agreed, but at college without telling the parents started T. The child- or young adult- kept repeating that she didn’t want to see us, that we were the reason she had been hospitalized because we didn’t support her transition.

Max “did not blossom into his true self”. He was more anxious and isolated than ever and rarely left the house, spending most of his time online.

I tell people you don’t get hormones easily or quickly, especially as a child. This story, contradicting the WPATH guidelines, says differently. I don’t believe it. T after half an hour with a physician assistant? A PA’s qualification takes less time than a medical degree, and they practise medicine supervised by a physician. They may diagnose and treat. I saw a consultant psychiatrist on the NHS.

The post alleges that teenage girls identify as trans because of social contagion, from visiting websites which valorize being trans. Other conditions allegedly spread in the same way: Bulimia was virtually unknown until the 1970s, but once described there was a common language for it, and it spread into culturally remote enclaves following the introduction of Western media sources. NYMag confirms that, and Lisa Marchiano quotes the researcher NYMag interviewed. Fiji first got television in 1995, and shortly after the first teenage girls there showed symptoms of eating disorders.

What do you think?

Partly it depends on whether being trans is acceptable. It could be unacceptable for conservative reasons, that God made us male and female, or for radical feminist reasons, that there is no necessary connection between sex and gender, and both sexes exhibit a wide range of gendered behaviour. It seems possible to me that I transitioned because of social pressure.

The stories are out there. People are angry. If girls imagine that transition is the answer to their problems, though they could have lived as normal women within the freedom of gender expression which other women carve out for themselves, perhaps they are right to be angry. You only learn that medical transition is not the answer to your problems when you have completed it, without robust gatekeeping.

In the comments, someone suggests autistic girls might find boys easier to grok than female teens, and it’s easy to see how a young woman who has no interest or patience for make up and complicated hairdos, who hates frilly clothes (too uncomfortable for those who are “sensory”), and who has a blunt communication style can come to wonder if she is “really” female or “actually” male instead, especially as adolescence brings on an increase in gender differences. Speculation becomes feverish.

My right to exist

I am a trans woman. I have a right to exist as a trans woman.

The empathetic person wants other people to be happy, and unfortunately that can leave no room for me. I had great joy at work when people opened up to me, and it seemed to me they felt better for being heard. I saw myself as worthless, only of value for what I can achieve. How must I be? I asked. What must I do? It was never enough. So I burned out.

First I saw an idea(l) of manhood which I pursued, and then I decided to transition, and both times I was crushing myself into a box which did not fit me. So I am crushed. This is a failure, and it is not wholly mine, but a failure of society, which puts everyone in boxes and specifies what we are supposed to like and dislike. My first box did not fit at all, and my second box never fitted either. I realised at the time I did not fit a box marked “transsexual”, only a box marked Clare, and I proceeded to have a conventional transition.

Ah. The fear was there. I knew I did not fit, but tried anyway. I did not have the ability to forge my own way even if I knew it was the only way I could prosper.

The curse of intelligence is treating life like a problem to be solved. Not all intelligent people do this but it is our temptation. Having failed twice to fit in by conforming, I tried again. How should I stretch, squash or contort myself? And I can’t. You can’t please more than one person.

Having tried to fit in, I am trying to be myself, and finding it difficult. I paused to meditate, and then watch Star Trek: Voyager. B’elanna Torres visits the Barge of the Dead, and finds her honour. What do you want me to be? she asks the Voyager crew, desperately. Only yourself. Well, that’s a coincidence.

In meditation, the words Love and Charisma came up. I have to love the world. It is the only way. Conforming or contorting come from fear. And- I have Charisma, though I have no idea how to use it.

Start from where I am. We know God by participation in God, not by trying to please God from afar. God loves the real me, not some idealised or perfect me. Ah. Of course I have been before. I do not step through a door and find everything easy. Created half to rise and half to fall, I return to my vomit. And then come round in the circle again.

I am a trans woman. However I got here, I got myself here myself. That means I start from here. I have these ways of being and I will not apologise for them.

What do I want?
How may I get it?

I move my locus of evaluation into myself.

Linda Bellos

Once again, a radical feminist has the breathtaking hypocrisy to complain of a woman not being heard by a few score activists, in The Guardian, with a print circulation of 160,000.

Linda Bellos wanted to claim that trans women tell lesbian feminists what to think. We never do. Rather, we assert our right to exist. Bellos wanted to speak where some of her trans victims actually live, in a college. As the college hosts said to her, I’m sorry but we’ve decided not to host you. I too believe in freedom of expression, however Peterhouse is as much a home as it is a college. The welfare of our students in this instance has to come first. No-one opposes free speech, but we object to feminists leading a baying crowd mocking and deriding us, simply because of who we are. The Guardian writer has such a sense of self-righteousness that she quoted that, not realising how it made her argument monstrous.

I am a woman, the law says so. To get gender recognition I had to affirm before a solicitor that I had lived as a female for three years and intend to live as a female until death. Even if gender recognition is granted without a psychiatrist’s diagnosis, these are difficult things for a prankster to swear. It would take great courage for a trans woman to apply to Murray Edwards college.

When I transitioned, I ceased to loathe my body. I am not telling anyone what to think. I merely seek to live my life. For example, I use public loos. Trans-excluding radical feminists say I and my kind are a threat there, and find stories from around the world of cross-dressed sex attackers to increase the feeling of threat. There are not many such stories, but the effect is to put me under threat. I am wary in public toilets. As the lesbian feminist Prof. Saira Ahmed argues, calling me a threat threatens me. I fear that someone will abuse me in a toilet because she feels the need to “defend” women there from me.

I am not a “serious problem”! I don’t want to tell anyone what to say or what to think, only to live my life peacefully.

Claire Heuchan and others make trans v TERF a zero-sum game. Everyone is a mix of gender expression, and all of us are different goo-gooing at a baby from typing a report. Gender is oppressive because particular gender roles are enforced on people- in my case a toxic masculinity I could not bear. So I subvert gender. Conservatives hate us: consider the extreme-Right “bathroom bills” in Texas and North Carolina. If only feminists like Linda Bellos could see trans women as a mostly-harmless anomaly. If only I did not have to protest my very right to exist. Gender and patriarchy are the problem. We could combat them together.

I wrote this as a comment, as this morning the article appeared with the words Comments on this article will be turned on later. They never were. Thank God, as commenters would be debating my right to exist.

You can find the Guardian column with a little googling, if you really must.

Transgender ideology

What is transgender ideology? What do we believe? That we are human beings. That we have a right to exist, like black, white, gay, straight, disabled, working class, educated people have. That we are mostly harmless, and we should be allowed to live in peace. That we should be judged for the harm we as individuals do, if any, not for some myth or scare-story.

And that’s it. There is a phenomenon, that people transition gender socially. It has been going on for millennia. Similar activity is observed in cultures round the world. People do it because we have to, despite social ostracism, reduced opportunities, and the threat of violence up to murder, because it is better than the alternative, because living in the gender assigned at birth is unbearable.

We do it though we are frightened and doubting, though we are assailed by the hatred of Republican bathroom bills and the allegation of autogynephilia, that we are merely sexual perverts. We do it despite the physical changes we must undergo. We carry on though family rejects us. Most of the attempts at theorising why we do this come from outsiders, from scientists who study us or haters who fantasise about us. None is necessary: we transition because we must.

And- what is a trans activist? A trans person saying something the accuser does not like; or a trans person just living their life.

I am not a threat to anyone. I should be allowed to live my life. That is transgender ideology.

Puberty blockers

No-one transitions on a whim. It is so difficult to transition that anyone who does probably is trans. That includes children.

There are 12.4m children aged 0-15 in the UK, and 1.4m 16-17 year olds. So 800 children on puberty blockers is a tiny fraction. Help, help, the sky is falling! cries the Daily Mail. They reported the fact, and sensationalised it- “Huge growth”- from what? Is not 800 out of 12.4m a tiny number? Then they interviewed and photographed a 17 year old trans woman who said puberty blockers saved her life, as she would have been suicidal suffering male pubertal changes. And then they started quoting transphobes. A spokeswoman for the Grassroots Conservatives campaign, who could be assumed to have no expertise whatsoever, said, This drastic notion that we should change our gender should be a last resort, as if a handful in a hundred thousand showed mass poisoning of children, or even the possibility that anyone who had the treatment did not need it. The children are diagnosed with life long gender dysphoria. The doctors predict that these are the children who will never regret their decision.

A woman speaking for Transgender Trend, a parents’ group speaking against transition, said These kids are not old enough to make life-changing decisions as if they were not diagnosed by doctors who were clear the treatment was appropriate. A doctor said the treatment relieved suffering, and three doctors said it was unsupported by rigorous scientific evidence, as if control groups could ever be ethical.

The treatment is puberty suppression. It gives children and families more time to make the final decision to transition surgically, before puberty changes the child’s body to appear irrevocably of the gender assigned at birth.

There were 2016 referrals of children and adolescents aged 3-18 in 2016 (yes, it is an odd coincidence). Children may remain under the care of the clinic for several years. Help, help, the sky is falling! said the Daily Telegraph. Chris McGovern, chair of the Campaign for Real Education so not obviously a medical expert called this a “politically correct agenda”. The Telegraph blames feminists! Feminists were attempting to reshape school policies on gender… children were being forced to “unlearn” the difference between boys and girls. If children did not know the difference, they would not know they wanted to transition. Liberating children from rigid gender roles would reduce the pressure to transition.

I feel that not all children who are trans will have been able to convince their parents, even if they have had the courage or desperation to try. I feel the children who are referred will be the strongest-minded and most certain trans children. And only a minority of those referred get any treatment. They are encouraged to transition and live in role, including at school, but most do not get puberty blockers, leave alone surgery.

Before puberty blockers, trans girls have their sperm frozen so that they might have children later in life. The Daily Mail opposes this. Storage costs £300 a year, and the Mail says the money should be spent on people with sympathetic health problems, not these weirdos. The article put “trans girls” in scare quotes, and referred to them as boys who believe they are female.

“Shouldn’t be allowed at all” was one of the highest rated comments. Consider the hostility to transition! No parent would accept it unless completely convinced. The barriers to a child’s transition are so great that children who do are trans.

I feel that schools which prevented gender indoctrination and permitted children to experiment with gender would produce more balanced adults. I am ambivalent about transition in children. What if it is wrong for them? I understand the worries- but surely all those involved are doing their best, for the best interests of the child.

Persuadable outsiders

I am glad when TERFs say I should not be allowed to use women’s toilets or changing rooms, or that they refuse to use feminine pronouns when referring to me. They are more likely to alienate women who are not already invested in TERF propaganda.

It is a simple argument. People feel great distress, and find transition relieves it. We are mostly harmless. We are not all the same, so when rapists transition it does not mean all trans women are rapists, any more than when a doctor murders three hundred people it would mean that all doctors are considering murder.

Once a feminist is convinced of the TERF case, she may be radicalised completely. They tell each other of autogynephilia, as if that could cause anyone to transition. The more hostile someone gets, the more extreme her arguments. Where there is a range of opinion the least hostile may be seduced into greater hostility. Anger has energy. They call us ridiculous and disgusting. They attribute fetishistic, sexual motives to us, though I just want to pee. More people might be enticed by statements of pain and distress, that someone was frightened, say, but I tend not to hear “I was frightened by this person” but that people might be. In theory, a recent rape victim might be upset seeing a trans woman in a women’s toilet, perceiving that person as a man, and that matters, but there are not many of us and the risk is not sufficient to justify stopping us using toilets. There are better ways to protect women from male violence.

They other us. We are the threatening Outsiders, who may hurt reasonable people. Good people should therefore protect the vulnerable good people from us. The lie that we are threatening is used to justify violence against us. Fortunately, people can see through that. There is enough experience of othering, from antisemitism to the Rwandan genocide, or conservatives whipping up hostility to immigrants; and of outsiders winning the argument, like homophobia changing from being ubiquitous to unacceptable.

We have won the argument. We are harmless, just trying to live our lives, like anyone else. We can often win sympathy talking of our struggle, but if you want to transition why shouldn’t you? Most of the froth of the argument goes on arcane websites only read by convinced extremists, or the occasional browser wondering what the fuss is about- so extremism is to be welcomed, as it puts ordinary people off.

That means trans women should ignore such sites. They are tempting. People evolved to be wary of threat. There might be a lion in that bush. Now, in generally safe societies, we see more threat than there is. Wondering if we will be safe to transition, we check out what society says and are disproportionately drawn to sites indicating danger. A plane crash, but not a safe flight, is news, so news is less realistic than advertising. If you really want to transition, you will probably be safe enough.

It means we should have an eye to the persuadable outsider. A woman shoving a camera in your face is hostile and provocative, but hitting her or snatching the camera is not justified, and attempts to justify it will put most people off us. Generally only people considering transition will be interested in arcane matters like tucking or female embodiment fantasies. TERFs might look, seeking ammunition or stoking their own fear and disgust, but outsiders aren’t interested in that.

It is a simple argument. We are living our lives as best we can. There is nothing wrong with that. That is as far as most people will bother going, if they consider trans rights at all.