Sabina, known as Sporus

Great trans women in history: Nero castrated Sporus, gave her the name Sabina, and married her as his Empress.

The historian Dio Chrysostom (it means “golden mouthed”, or eloquent) says that she wore her hair parted in a feminine style, wore women’s clothes, and young women attended her when she went for a walk. Nero offered riches and honours to anyone who could make Sabina a woman. Dio comments this is as impossible as flying, another miracle of the 20th century.

Suetonius records that Nero too enjoyed dressing as a woman in public, appearing in operatic tragedies in the parts of heroines and goddesses, wearing masks modelled on the face of his mistresses.

At their wedding, attended by the whole court, Nero treated Sabina as his empress, with a dowry and bridal veil, dressed in the clothes and the jewels of the empress. They rode together in a litter to every Greek assize and fair, and through the Street of Images at Rome, amorously kissing.

I wondered what the Street of Images was. Was it one of the great streets of the city, one of temples perhaps? But the only references I can find to the Street of Images refer to this story.

David Wood suggests that Nero married her because she resembled his former wife, Poppaea Sabina, whom he had kicked to death. Wood suggests he thought Sabina (Sporus) was descended from the emperor Tiberius, so marriage to her strengthened his claim to the throne. Nero dominated the descendants of previous emperors, in the same way as he had sexually assaulted Britannicus, Claudius’ son. However, Suetonius appears to believe Nero loved Sporus. Wood quotes M. Griffin suggesting that Nero had loved Poppaea so much that Sporus was an art project or dramatic conceit, so that Nero had the image of Poppaea in his palace, acting and appearing like the original. Griffin claims that Nero ‘may only ever have pretended to have sex with his Poppaea-substitute’.

Wikipedia goes further, suggesting that Sporus was fictional. Suetonius wrote during the reign of Hadrian, and Mary Beard has suggested his work is propaganda rather than history, written to discredit earlier emperors. However Hadrian was gay, so might object to Suetonius making up an allegation of sex with a “man” being uniquely defamatory. Suetonius was Hadrian’s chief secretary.

Wikipedia suggests that the name Sporus is intentional mockery, meaning “seed”, which can be used to mean semen. The name is an insult Alexander Pope used to mock Lord Hervey. Nero called her Sabina, so I will too.

We have no idea what Sabina looked like. This portrait bust was formerly identified with the original AFAB Poppaea Sabina, but her hair is worn curled.

The Praetorian prefect Nymphidius Sabinus persuaded the Praetorian guard to forsake Nero, and took Sabina to wife, calling her Poppaea. He tried to become emperor but was killed by his own guards. Nero was succeeded in the year of four emperors by Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian. Otho had been married to the AFAB Poppaea, and now took care of Sabina. Vitellius wanted to kill Sabina in a gladiatorial show, so Sabina committed suicide, perhaps before her twentieth birthday.

Three men loved Sabina. They saw her as a woman, and we should too. See also Elagabala, proclaimed as Roman Emperor, who proclaimed herself Empress.

What were those regalia of an empress? Roman women would wear a sleeveless tunic, then a stola, like the one the Statue of Liberty wears. Over this they would wear a palla, a woollen shawl up to 11×5’, fastened by a brooch. Livia Drusilla here wears a stola and palla.

Stephanie Hayden

Stephanie Hayden won a significant legal victory for trans people in February. When Kate Scottow abused and doxxed her on twitter, she was prosecuted, and found guilty of “persistently making use of a public communications network to cause annoyance, inconvenience and anxiety” to Hayden. That this happened is testament to the courage and persistence of Hayden. Scottow had used the alias “Busted Wench” to abuse Hayden, but Hayden discovered who she was. Scottow established more than one twitter account, each of which was used to abuse trans people and our allies. Scottow had to pay £1000 costs and had a “conditional discharge”- that means, she must keep good behaviour in future. Hayden said, “I wish Mrs Scottow all the best for the future and hope that she will learn from this experience”.

Hayden continues to campaign and tweet. Maria MacLachlan sent her a Friend request on facebook, apparently by mistake while searching for a photo of her, and if you google Hayden McLachlan’s account is on the first page. McLachlan is abusive and mocking, of course. Hayden sued Helena Wojtczak, and Wojtczak raised £10,255 on a crowdfunder to defend the action. Wojtczak omitted to mention that Hayden claimed Wojtczak had doxxed her and other trans rights advocates, and this was a breach of data protection. Merely being sued was enough to get Wojtczak the money.

Also searching for Hayden, I found out about her conviction in 1999. She was in a confrontation in the street, it escalated, and she was sentenced to 150 hours community service, but varied to a one year conditional discharge. As she said, the conviction is long spent, but haters still write about it. Because of a human rights case, it is likely the offence would not be revealed by a DBS check.

Hayden has another action, against a freelance journalist who has been published in The Times, Mail, Telegraph and Express. She claims to “focus on news/investigations on transgender issues”, but this is from a perspective hostile to trans rights. It’s a profitable career move, as lots of propagandists want copy against trans people. I won’t name the journalist, for reasons that will become clear.

Hayden tweeted two photos of some prose which looks like a newspaper article, with headline then lede in larger print, and the final sentence “[the journalist] was unable to be contacted for comment”. However this prose has not appeared elsewhere, as was clear from the headline “Gender critical activist journalist threatened suicide in desperate bid to ‘take down’ Stephanie Hayden”. Also, though the lede referred to the suicide threat, the story should still recount it before commenting on it.

Hayden obtained 1204 pages of a transcript of WhatsApp messages, including apparent threats of suicide, which she quotes.

I love Stephanie Hayden’s courage and persistence. And revealing a conversation about suicide crosses a line, however brutal the treatment she has faced. On Twitter Hayden calls herself a “lawyer”, though I understand she is not a solicitor or barrister.

Meanwhile a man abused trans women at Leicester Square tube station, shouting rudely about their genitals, and they assaulted him. It’s one assault, like hundreds of thousands of others not worthy of reporting, but because it is trans women accused it got into the Times and Mail. The judge, perhaps seeing the journalist, commented about as sympathetically as he could:

I accept that had it not been for the alleged victim in this case there probably wouldn’t have been an incident. The four of you then were subjected to extremely offensive transphobic and racial abuse. Had it not been for that there would have been no violent disorder. However that does not excuse what you did, you went far too far in your reactions, but of course transphobic issues are particularly sensitive. It is a sign that the so-called victim realised how wrong he was by refusing to cooperate and not make any statement. I do not in any way condone your behaviour but I accept that what happened to you at the beginning of the incident was entirely wrong and people like you should not be subject to that abuse in the public domain or anywhere.

They “walked free from court”, clichéd the Mail. Of course. If all such assaults resulted in prison terms, the prison population would be ten times higher, or more: Scottow, a “mother” (a term to evoke sympathy) got the headline “Mum spared jail”. The main shocking thing about that assault is that it happened in Summer 2018, and is only being tried now. This is a result of Tory cuts to spending on justice, which afflict the guilty, innocent and victims alike.

Suzanne Moore and Harry Styles

“I have left the Guardian. I will very much miss SOME of the people there. For now that’s all I can say.” So tweeted Suzanne Moore, a transphobe. Is Catherine Bennett considering her position there? “Gutted” tweeted Jess Phillips, who is not a transphobe.

This is a transphobia row. The Guardian welcomes transphobia, but also has articles standing up for trans rights. Moore published the names of employees of the Guardian who complained about her transphobia. Obsessive transphobes started abusing them.

In replies to Jess Phillips’ tweet, there is a lot of abuse. Some of it is from the Left, attacking her as a right-winger. Some of it is from transphobes, such as this from Loulabelle:

I don’t believe you. Prove it! Be brave and fight for women and little girls. We need more voices otherwise we won’t have any. Our speech, words, experience, rights will be gone. Then remember the part you played.

That would be heartrending, if it were related to reality. She imagines trans rights means the end of women’s rights. But some calls Phillips out on transphobia:

For someone who continually claims they are pro LGBT rights, why are you yet again, tweeting in support of a transphobe?

Then there are little squabbles about the different tweets. I wondered if Phillips could use them as a poll- count up the tweets and the Likes, and decide which side was stronger. Unfortunately, the replies seem mostly from phobes. Phobes are energised by such tweets. They get to shout their hatred. Trans people will be discouraged. It’s personal for us, our lives are afflicted by transphobia. We will retreat first. We need allies to stand up for us. And nuance is impossible in a tweet reply.

I would rather Moore had ceased her transphobia. She wrote other stuff as well. She never said anything original about trans rights, just repeating the same old boring lies arguing that trans rights in any way conflict with women’s rights. She can always go back to the Daily Mail, she never seemed uncomfortable there, writing for the “Femail” pages. The Daily Mail will allow her to write transphobia in every column if she likes.

Moore’s second-last article in The Guardian could be read as transphobic, but I read as confused. She tells her miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy stories, as these things should be generally known, not kept private and shameful. She writes,

It is not transphobic for women to name our experiences as females and mothers. To insist our bodies matter and our losses are real. It is a matter of life and death.

Well, I would not object- unless you name them specifically to score a transphobic point. Yet she also says, “Women and trans men have periods. Why not just say that?” Indeed. “Women and trans men” is one way of doing inclusive language, an alternative to “pregnant people” or “people with cervixes”. She seems to be expecting to be called transphobic, and railing against anyone calling anyone transphobic, and only being transphobic in that she is expecting people calling out transphobia to be completely unreasonable. Or, she is writing about something she does not understand.

Meanwhile Harry Styles wore a dress on the cover of Vogue, and the mad Right got angry.

There is no society that can survive without strong men. The East knows this. In the west, the steady feminization of our men at the same time that Marxism is being taught to our children is not a coincidence. It is an outright attack. Bring back manly men.

These right wing commentators seem to have an idea of a masculinity, proper to men, which can be taught, and can be subverted. All men must fit that narrow masculinity. Women must be feminine. But such masculinity is under threat, such that a singer on a magazine cover can damage it.

I love masculinity. I read the Letter from a Birmingham Jail yesterday, and it is beautifully masculine. Following the example of St Paul, Martin Luther King writes simply, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here”. He will stand up and oppose it. And I want men to be able to say, with Styles, that “real friendship stems from being vulnerable with someone”- being your true self, without masks, including the imposed mask of permitted masculinity. Meditation has helped him be more present. It changed his life, subtly. He wants to evolve, and finds the fearlessness (a good masculine quality) of David Bowie (in presenting nonbinary gender). Such fearlessness is anathema to the Right- fearless of its incomprehension, hatred and ridiculous rules- but Vogue’s male photographer observes of Styles, “It’s a good thing to be nice”. “He’s really in touch with his feminine side because it’s something natural,” says a friend.

Trans women are women. Harry Styles is a man. Ben Shapiro shows his ignorance on Twitter again, gets owned, and Vogue gets more publicity. Suzanne Moore gets into a nasty war with colleagues, loses her job, and all the transphobes erupt, whining and hating. We don’t fit gender roles, and we cope as best we may.

Transphobia and hate crime

The report on transphobic hate crime in Britain 2020 makes horrifying reading. Of 227 respondents, 42% had experienced more than ten transphobic incidents in a year. There is usually no accessible support for trans people facing hate crime. Hate crime has severe impacts, stunting people’s lives.

Recorded hate crime has doubled in the last three years, but only one in seven trans people report our experiences. While much of the hate comes from the transphobia pervasive in the Patriarchy, nearly half of respondents were abused by people radicalised in trans-excluding spaces, who may imagine that they are feminist or left-wing. Online hate has real world consequences. The report refers to such transphobes as “transphobic ‘activists’”- I call them trans excluders, who may be physically violent, or troublesome by making vexatious complaints, rather than merely whining in their own spaces. It shows that whining trans excluders may become violent or vexatious. Their enablers and proselytisers cause great harm.

transphobia & transphobic gaslighting from family, even if it is less directly violent, can be devastating for young trans people’s sense of self and wellbeing… transphobia in what’s supposed to be your safe space, from those who are supposed to care most, is devastating.

Not just young trans people. I was 36. Family reactions had a lasting effect on me.

We also experience transphobia from strangers, LGBT+ people, colleagues, medical professionals, and “friends”. Twelve experienced it from police officers. I tend to feel my bad experience of the police comes from poverty rather than transphobia, but the police can be disrespectful.

Transphobia is not just hate crime. Abuse and harassment can be horrible to experience. When someone asks what I have between my legs I am demeaned. Someone treats me as if I am unworthy of respect, and I doubt that others will respect me as I deserve. I don’t get deadnamed, but that is a claim that how I see myself and present myself is somehow unreal, that others should be entitled to define me.

25 respondents had experienced death threats, 28 threats of sexual assault, 47 threats of physical assault, 16 physical assault and 14 sexual assault. But if we have any trans acquaintances, we hear about these things happening to others, and that can have similar effects.

More than half the respondents had contemplated self-harm or suicide. Nearly two thirds were unable to use public toilets, and half were unable to leave their house. Transphobia makes us insecure about our appearance and exacerbates gender dysphoria. It makes us less likely to trust strangers or open up to people, so that we become ever more isolated. 67 had panic attacks, 87 had trouble sleeping, more than half felt humiliated, more than half stressed, more than half afraid, nearly half hyper-vigilant. Transphobia drains our motivation. It causes symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD. Two thirds said the effect on their mental health and emotional wellbeing was big or significant.

Transphobia impacts our physical health, causing drinking, comfort eating and self-neglect. We might avoid exercise or avoid seeking medical help. One said they had developed twitches, and reading that makes me feel sad, but also reassured- it’s not just me.

Transphobia makes many of us us self-censor. We don’t feel able to speak up for ourselves. Transphobia intersects with ableism and other discrimination. Part of my reason for moving house was transphobia.

97 said transphobia had made them more active in trans activism, and 61 said it made them more open about being trans. These are healthy responses. Echoes within us, from our internalised transphobia, can make the experiences worse. We need Pride. However, being involved in the struggle had exhausted some of us.

Transphobia can distort the way we see ourselves and our gender. It prevents some from expressing their identity- I know people who put off transition for years. We are badly affected by ideas of what it means to be truly trans:

Every time I am not feeling crippling dysphoria, I am terrified that I am not transgender, and I have been told that I have to hate my body all the time otherwise I am not transgender.

Transphobia affects our relationships. We are less able to meet new people, and we get driven out of groups. 43 had experienced an abusive relationship, and our relative lack of power can make this more likely; and fear of transphobia may make us less likely to seek support. We lose touch with others.

I now assume everyone is transphobic until I’m proved wrong to avoid disappointment and ridicule.

So many of us fail to reach our potential.

The sheer amount of issues is staggering. I feel in a persistent state of battle.

Only twenty had gone to the police, and most had found the police unhelpful. Possibly the Samaritans would be more helpful, at least validating our feelings.

One officer said I left myself open to being abused because I “chose to be different”. Misgendering throughout the interview then told that the physical assault, death threats and threats of further violence against me weren’t strong enough to do anything about and maybe I should “go home, make a cup of tea, and dress ‘normally'”.

There are few positives to take from this report, published by Galop. One is simply that it exists, that work is being done to expose the levels of transphobia and the effects these have. I am glad Galop, which published the report, exists:

Galop is the UK’s LGBT+ anti-violence charity. For the past 37 years we have been providing advice, support and advocacy to LGBT+ victims and campaigning to end anti-LGBT+ violence and abuse. Galop works within three key areas; hate crime, domestic abuse, and sexual violence. Our purpose is to make life safe, just, and fair for LGBT+ people. We work to help LGBT+ people achieve positive changes to their current situation, through practical and emotional support, to develop resilience, and to build lives free from violence and abuse.

The report is timely and necessary, but flawed in that it does not make a clear distinction between transphobia generally, and transphobic hate crime. It is called a “hate crime report”, but includes things which are not crimes. Deadnaming may be part of a criminal series of actions, but I can’t see a circumstance where simple deadnaming is criminal, however hurtful it is. That does not detract from the report’s evidence of the effect transphobia has on trans people: it cripples many of us.

Agnes Zalewska

Should you participate in research projects on trans?

I found out about Agnes, or Agnieszka, Zalewska’s project “Illusions and realities. Transgender motivations and desires” on facebook, and people were wary. We don’t like the word “illusions” in this context. Some think the “illusion” might be our feeling that we really are of the gender we express. One would not go near it, based on the title alone. However we have illusions before we transition, of what transition will be like, both good and bad- I thought I would be sacked, and I was supported in work.

This is part of Mrs Zalewska’s Doctorate in Clinical Practice at the University of Exeter. She is an accredited psychoanalytic psychotherapist, and worked at The Laurels, the gender clinic in Exeter. Someone on facebook had seen her there, and found her professional and supportive. There are tales about the Gender Identity Development Service, of how some psychs left thinking it gave treatment too easily, but with that caveat I think this makes her an ally. Here is her crowdfunding page.

She is on twitter, but most of her tweets are retweets, generally fewer than one a month. She retweeted this from Marcus Evans, linking his article in Quillette “Why I resigned from Tavistock: trans identified children need therapy, not just affirmation and drugs”. Evans is hostile, and Quillette is a hard-right publication. Evans praises a discredited book. I don’t think a mere retweet shows Mrs Zalewska is hostile, though. She follows trans advocates including the Scottish Trans Alliance, and anti-trans propagandists including “transgender trend“.

Trans people exist. There are campaigners, desperate to portray us as a threat to women- trans women as male predators who should not be in women’s spaces, trans men as dupes being mutilated in a way they will regret. But that is based on a false understanding of who we are. In general I would say British academic research would give a greater understanding of us. Narrowly propagandistic work designed to show we were deluded or dangerous would not be ethical.

Mrs Zalewska is one of the authors of this article, “An exploration of the lived experiences of non-binary individuals who have presented at a GIC in the UK”. Only the abstract is freely available, including this recommendation:

for an affirmative approach that offers space for the non-binary individual to articulate their desires and come to terms with their identity. This exploration must take into consideration the person’s place within a social world that can be transphobic and limited in terms of potential medical interventions. Further research is needed to better understand this marginalised community.

I am not sure how far that takes us. Saying “Of course you’re not nonbinary” will just drive the patient away. Indeed the social world can be transphobic, and that might induce a nonbinary person to stay concealed, conforming to gender stereotypes. If a therapist was overly concerned about the transphobia of society, she might discourage a patient from transition.

Googling a bit, I was amazed to find this site: callforparticipants.com. If I wanted, I could search it to see if any of my idiosyncrasies was being researched atm, then pour my heart out to a researcher and appear in various obscure PhD theses. Everyone should have a hobby. Even though I reveal myself completely here, I find the thought distasteful- to be questioned and summarised.

“The aim of the study is to increase awareness of the people who undergo gender transition.” It will help people considering transition, Mrs Zalewska writes. People transition in considerably more hostile environments than the UK is in 2020. The study is self-selecting. I clicked the ohsotempting button marked “Take part in this study” and got a request for my email address.

I don’t think it can do any harm, to me personally, or generally. I am not sure it will do great good. It would help to understand experiences of transition, but that might be better in quantitative than qualitative research- a representative sample of transitioners. It can never be established if we are happier transitioned, because the groups to be compared- those who considered transition, but didn’t, and those who transitioned- can’t include a proper control.

One might ask the same question about motivations to participate. What are your illusions, motivations and desires, and what is the reality? I can’t see any benefit to me beyond feeling I have given Mrs Zalewska, someone I do not know, a gift. However as the issues she considers with patients include transgender and sexuality, I may help those patients.

Trans in Game of Thrones

A voice inside her whispered, There are no heroes, and she remembered what Lord Petyr had said to her, here in this very hall. “Life is not a song, sweeting,” he’d told her. “You may learn that one day to your sorrow.” In life, the monsters win, she told herself.

All of A Song of Ice and Fire is bleak: mostly unsympathetic people have a ghastly time, then die. Very occasionally, courage is rewarded, but more often betrayal and trickery. One of the oaths sworn is “Grant mercy to our weak, help to our helpless, and justice to all, and we shall never fail you.” That does not turn out well, though. Some characters, such as Sansa, believe in honour and chivalry, even after seeing its opposite close to: “True knights protect the weak.” But this idea is mocked: “When you play the game of thrones, you win, or you die,” Cersei tells Eddard Stark. Life is harsh:

The Peaceful People, [Missandei’s] folk were called. All agreed that they made the best slaves.

What about the trans people? Brienne of Tarth is mocked so long as a freak she believes it herself.

Had Brienne been a man, she would have been called big; for a woman, she was huge. Freakish was the word she had heard all her life. She was broad in the shoulder and broader in the hips. Her legs were long, her arms thick. Her chest was more muscle than bosom. Her hands were big, her feet enormous. And she was ugly besides, with a freckled, horsey face and teeth that seemed almost too big for her mouth. She did not need to be reminded of any of that.

She does not see herself as trans, as the concept does not exist in Westeros, but she takes a man’s role, as a knight. She is hated for it.

The Maid of Tarth had seen such eyes before. Lady Stark had been kind to her, but most women were just as cruel as men. She could not have said which she found most hurtful, the pretty girls with their waspish tongues and brittle laughter or the cold-eyed ladies who hid their disdain behind a mask of courtesy. And common women could be worse than either.

Randyll Tarly is typical:

“Some men are blessed with sons, some with daughters. No man deserves to be cursed with such as you.”

Renly’s acceptance made Brienne forever loyal:

She was prepared for coldness, for mockery, for hostility. She had supped upon such meat before. It was not the scorn of the many that left her confused and vulnerable, but the kindness of the few.

Only Podrick Payne, who acts as her squire, shows respect, addressing her as “Ser, my lady”.

Possibly there is a trans woman, mentioned once:

Some of the dockside whores were vicious, and sailors fresh from the sea never knew which ones. S’vrone was the worst. Everyone said she had robbed and killed a dozen men, rolling the bodies into the canals to feed the eels. The Drunken Daughter could be sweet when sober, but not with wine in her. And Canker Jeyne was really a man.

Prince Doran’s brother Oberyn has bastard daughters known as the sand snakes:

Obara Sand moved first. Even without her whip and shield, she had an angry mannish look to her. In place of a gown, she wore men’s breeches and a calf-length linen tunic, cinched at the waist with a belt of copper suns. Her brown hair was tied back in a knot. Snatching the skull from the maester’s soft pink hands, she placed it up atop the marble column.

Like in real life, women can be soldiers, pretending to be men, possibly trans men, though they are seen as remarkable:

“Did Mance ever sing of Brave Danny Flint?” “Not as I recall. Who was he?” “A girl who dressed up like a boy to take the black. Her song is sad and pretty. What happened to her wasn’t.” In some versions of the song, her ghost still walked the Nightfort.

The warrior witch Morna removed her weirwood mask just long enough to kiss [Jon Snow’s] gloved hand and swear to be his man or his woman, whichever he preferred.

There’s a bit of female domination, by magic:

Melisandre spoke softly in a strange tongue. The ruby at her throat throbbed slowly, and Jon saw that the smaller stone on Rattleshirt’s wrist was brightening and darkening as well. “So long as he wears the gem he is bound to me, blood and soul,” the red priestess said. “This man will serve you faithfully. The flames do not lie, Lord Snow.”

Ramsay Bolton, Lord of Winterfell, threatens his creature:

“She has no handmaids, poor thing,” he had said to Theon. “That leaves you, Reek. Should I put you in a dress?” He laughed. “Perhaps if you beg it of me. Just now, it will suffice for you to be her bath maid. I won’t have her smelling like you.”

There’s a slave hermaphrodite, who fulfils a trans cliché- that we are freakish, and imagine that makes us interesting:

a willowy creature called Sweets who dressed in moonstones and Myrish lace. “You are trying to decide if I’m a man or woman,” Sweets said, when she was brought before the dwarfs. Then she lifted her skirts and showed them what was underneath. “I’m both, and master loves me best.”

George RR Martin brings forth the worst of trans experience: the mockery and disdain, the violence, but everyone in his world has a horrible time. He does not single out trans people particularly.

The Critic

The Critic is a recently launched magazine, with its first issue dated November 2019, which is obsessed with trans people. It loathes us, lies about us, incites hate against us- but why does it care so much?

Dominic Green starts his history of trans with TS Eliot and Tiresias, the prophet of Apollo whom Hera transformed into a woman. The readers of rubbish like this like to think they are cultured. I had not heard of Michael Dillon, who he says was the first trans man with a phalloplasty operation, in several stages over three years, 1946-9. Green gives his old name. Green then argues that 97% of trans women have penises. He quotes an estimate of 200-500,000 trans people, then says the 4910 GRCs by 2018 is less than 3% of 200,000, so almost none of us use hormones or surgery. But then, of that 500,000 people maybe 50,000 will have transitioned, and 60% seek genital surgery.

Do we seek “the psychological rewards of specialness and victimhood”, as Green alleges? Well, I don’t. Being a victim is ghastly. Perhaps Green has never been a victim.

Julie Bindel claims “transgender ideologists are winning the battle for media hearts and minds”. Perhaps she never reads The Spectator, or The Times. She starts by whining about being called a transphobe in 2008- perhaps seeking “the psychological rewards of specialness and victimhood”- and goes on to claim The Guardian “push[es] the trans agenda”. It really doesn’t. When Bindel says the BBC has “activists with microphones”, she alleges these are its trans journalists, rather than its transphobes.

Josephine Bartosch attacks the Women’s Equality Party in advance of its consultation on trans rights results. “Is the WEP really for women?” asks the headline. Obviously it is: as Bartosch admits, it campaigns for “equal representation in parliament, the pharmaceutical industry to not treat men’s bodies as the default, and for an end to the pay gap between the sexes”. In advance of the result of its consultation, the WEP is supportive of trans women, and for Bartosch that means it is not working for women. Reading these transphobic whines can be oddly reassuring- Bartosch also lashes out at the Fawcett Society and the Red Tent for failing to back her view.

The editors claim there is no clear moment when someone transitions, or when this is recognised in law. This is untrue- the Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act are clear about when they protect people. That article started with an attack on the American Civil Liberties Union for tweeting “men who get their period are men” (again, note the power of our allies, and the obsessive squeaking of the phobes). This is no more than saying “trans men are men”, but probably gets The Critic’s ire because it suggests that we can be trans without taking hormones and having surgery.

In a year, The Critic has 25 articles tagged “transgender”. It asked, “Can self-respecting feminists remain in the Labour Party?” I would expect The Critic to attack the Labour Party, being a hard right publication, but this is completely lacking in proportion. Which is the party with the best chance of being elected, at the same time as being feminist? Labour, of course, which introduced the All-woman shortlist among other feminist projects. As a trans woman, I would say trans rights are not the most important feminist issue. This article attacks Labour’s “grotesque fetishisation of a fashionable minority group”.

To me, the Critic is the one fetishising us, giving an attack on us far more coverage than 50,000 or even 500,000 people deserve. Even Brexit has only 99 tagged articles. It gives a long article to extremist Brexiters opposing the Northern Ireland Protocol- that’s the part of the withdrawal which respects the Good Friday Agreement treaty with Ireland, which is essential for a US trade deal or to obey international law. It writes of a “clean break Brexit”- ie, no deal, damaging our economy and international relations. It is yet another extreme right publication attacking trans people. “The point is not trolling,” the editors write, disingenuously.

When it launched, The Critic claimed it “exists to push back against a self-regarding and dangerous consensus that finds critical voices troubling, triggering, insensitive and disrespectful”. That is, its sole purpose is to foment culture war, rather than say anything interesting about politics in general. Culture war is all the Right has to offer its dupes, as it entrenches plutocracy in the US and UK. The main tone I see in its attacks on trans people is one of whining resentment, seeking “the psychological rewards of specialness and victimhood”. I am so glad I had not heard of it before now. I cast a cursory glance at boring, transphobic rubbish, so you don’t have to.

“Truth in Science”

A group calling itself “Truth in Science” has sent DVDs to schools across the country, claiming that “professionals” (unnamed) have “concern” that vulnerable children are being confused about gender identity, and instead of growing out of it naturally at puberty they change sex. The usual nutters, I thought- some name unconnected to trans, which mysteriously only campaigns to reduce trans rights, and attempts to frame the issue as anything but trans rights. Some nutters are part of four “separate organisations”, some will sign their name to any transphobic rubbish going.

But no. This lot are “Christians”!

I went to their website, and found their one other concern is Creationism. They claim that “the existence of superbly engineered birds remains a significant challenge to neo-darwinian evolution”. Totally barmy (I have decided not to use the other British word, “Batty”, because it may be misunderstood). That writer, Dr Marc Surtees, works in pharmaceuticals, but appears not to be attached to any university.

Surtees’ article is interesting as a specimen. It gives references to real scientists, and discusses their evidence at length. I cannot be bothered looking up the minutiae, but Surtees has not addressed all the evidence that birds evolved from dinosaurs, and the article is obviously rubbish if you have any concept of how evidence may add up to become convincing. Birds descend from therapods, which are saurischian, lizard-hipped; confusingly not ornithischian, bird-hipped. The resemblance of ornithischians to birds was only superficial.

Professor Andy McIntosh, who signed the letter to schools about “The Transgender Agenda”, is a meretricious professor of thermodynamics at the University of Leeds. Sorry, “Emeritus,” which means that he is retired, but holds the title as an honour. He has done serious scientific work. I used to wonder- do Creationist scientists actually believe the rot they peddle, or do they lie for money? Who could tell. It’s the old “Are they fools, or knaves?” question. The answer is usually “both”: fools not because they are stupid but because they have huge blind spots preventing them seeing reality.

The video has experts, though again the ones with most screen time are propagandists. Peter Saunders is chief executive of the ICMDA- that’s the International Christian Medical and Dental Association. I had a look at their website, found nothing in a search for “transgender” or “homosexuality”, and found their “Coronavirus resources” were unobjectionable links to the BMJ, Lancet and WHO. Their aims are to discuss “Christian faith and ethics” in the context of medicine. The Christian Medical Fellowship, a linked British organisation, has the usual propaganda against gay people.

So what of the DVD? Over a doomy ostinato more suited to a horror film, Julie Maxwell, a paediatrician, says “We are losing our parental rights to teach children according to our family values”. Dr Carys Moseley says children are “traumatised and terrified” by LGBT lessons in primary schools.

“We know from anecdotal evidence” says Carys. Huh. Only the strongest evidence could show how birds evolve, and these people will always quibble about it. “What my mate said” is good enough for them to attack LGBT+ people.

Peter scaremongers about reverters. They will come back to doctors and demand justification for hormones and surgery! That scaremongering is better addressed to doctors than teachers, I suppose, but fling it at the wall anyway.

Should trans people bother about it? Probably not. Schools get a lot of rubbish sent to them. Teachers have no time to waste on it. We should be worried about Department for Education guidelines, which show dangerously right-wing views, but not this stuff. “Teachers will ignore it,” says my nonbinary teacher friend- anecdotal evidence you can trust!

Antisemitism, transphobia and the Labour Party

I welcome the report into antisemitism in the Labour party. Its recommendations should apply to transphobia as well. The transphobe MSP Jenny Marra and MP Rosie Duffield have faced no sanction for their transphobia. The transphobic document the “Labour Women’s Declaration” has received no condemnation from the Labour leadership. Transphobia is rife in the Labour Party.

I have taken paragraphs from the report, and substituted “transphobia” for “antisemitism”, “trans people” for “Jewish people”. I do this because I find transphobia in the Labour party quite as offensive as antisemitism.

The Labour Party must acknowledge the impact that years of failing to tackle transphobia has had on trans people. Rebuilding trust and confidence with its members, the Trans community and the wider public will be crucial for the future. A transparent and independent transphobia complaints process, which ensures that all cases of alleged discrimination, harassment or victimisation are investigated promptly, rigorously and without political interference, must sit at the heart of this. (p3)

Politicians on all sides have a responsibility to set standards for our public life and to lead the way in challenging HoBiT in all its forms. What politicians say and do matters. Their words and actions send a message about what is acceptable and what is not. (p4)

The Party has shown an ability to act decisively when it wants to, through the introduction of a bespoke process to deal with sexual harassment complaints… it is hard not to conclude that transphobia within the Labour Party could have been tackled more effectively if the leadership had chosen to do so. (p6)

An effective and transparent complaints process is critical to building trust with members and the general public, yet the Labour Party’s response to transphobia complaints has been inconsistent, poor, and lacking in transparency. (p9)

There is:
no clear, publicly accessible guidance for members on how transphobic conduct is sanctioned
no clear guidance for decision-makers on how to decide on the appropriate sanction
a continuing failure to provide adequate reasons for sanctions, and
poor record-keeping, implementation and monitoring of sanctions. (p10)

There was a failure to deliver adequate training to individuals responsible for handling transphobia complaints. The approach to training for antisemitism is in stark contrast to the training provided for those handling sexual harassment complaints, for whom the Labour Party has implemented a comprehensive training scheme. (p11)

We expect the Labour Party to have practical training in place within six months of publication of this report. We also found that the resourcing of the complaints process was inadequate. (p11)

Why can’t the EHRC recommend this for all discrimination complaints?

The Party should… Engage with Jewish stakeholders to develop and embed clear, accessible and robust principles and practices to tackle transphobia and to instil confidence for the future. (p12)

[and] commission an independent process to handle and determine transphobia complaints. (p13)

[and] Publish a comprehensive policy and procedure, setting out how transphobia complaints will be handled and how decisions on them will be made. This should include published criteria on what conduct will be subject to investigation and suspension. (p13)

[and] make sure the complaint handling process is resourced properly so that it can deal with transphobia complaints effectively and without delay. (p14)

The EHRC says Jewish stakeholders should be consulted on training programmes. I want trans members consulted on transphobia and training for all with positions of responsibility within the Party.

In the introduction to the report, the EHRC says,

Under the Equality Act 2010, the Labour Party must not discriminate against, harass or victimise its members, associates, guests, or those wanting to become members, on the basis of a number of protected characteristics… Leaders and representatives of political parties should uphold and defend their right to speak freely, but they also have a responsibility to conduct debate responsibly, and to lead others in doing so. They should create an environment where discrimination, harassment and victimisation is not tolerated, so that all party members feel valued and respected.

There is no excuse for the Labour Party not responding to transphobia as it has committed to responding to antisemitism.

Evidence for gender recognition reform

The Women and Equalities Committee is seeking evidence on gender recognition reform. This is torture. The WEC in 2016 took evidence and decided that trans legal rights should be improved. Then the Tory government said no. Then Theresa May, then Prime Minister, in 2017 said trans legal rights should be improved in this small, merely symbolic way. Then they delayed and delayed and delayed. Then Liz Truss said no. This phrase Truss used, “kinder and more straightforward”, while retaining all the unkind and Byzantine bits, was particularly cruel. It’s not gaslighting, as gaslighting is about making you doubt your own perceptions, but the feeling is as painful, hope given then slowly withdrawn.

The deadline is 27 November.

Trans and LGBT+ groups can give evidence on the effects on trans people as a whole. Lawyers can debate the meaning of the various provisions. For individuals, the main evidence is personal experience. No, the system now does not work, and this is why. Any number of trans people, all saying why the system is unworkable and humiliating, might help. Why should the Gender Recognition Panel be entitled to know what is between my legs? “Have you had the operation?” It’s the question the tolerant, curious members of the public ask trans women, to find whether we are “real transsexuals” or not. It is humiliating.

How does it make you feel?

How has it affected you? With Theresa May tantalising us in July 2017, and the hate campaign waged ever since by anti-trans campaigners in The Times and elsewhere, what experience have you of anti-trans hate? Some certainty, with the law reformed and not going to be reformed again, might help. When have you been excluded? When have you been unwelcome? When have you felt unwelcome?

If I give evidence about the humiliation, it may be published on line under my name. I can ask for my name to be withheld, or for the evidence to be considered but not published, and I have no idea whether they would do that. I hope the committee would not put my name, which could be found by google, next to an account of my experiences. However, putting my name might make my evidence stronger. I am prepared to put my name to this.

There are eleven MPs on the committee: six Tory, four Labour, one SNP. None are out as trans or nonbinary, and two appear to be men, the rest women. I have not heard of them. Caroline Nokes, the chair, appears to be an ally. I assume they have researchers to assist.

The questions are lengthy and detailed. They give scope for trans people to give our personal experience, to show why the system is not working.

Some can be given a clear answer. “Should the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria be removed?” Of course. When the ICD changes in January 2022, gender dysphoria will not be classified as an illness, and it is not an illness now. Some people are trans. We know we are trans. There should be no requirement for psychiatrists to be involved, any more than you need a psychiatrist to certify you are gay before you have a same-sex marriage. That this is so clear says something about Truss’s refusal to reform the system. Doctor’s letters are expensive and unnecessary, yet she retains the requirement.

I am not ill. ICD 11 confirms I am not ill. To require me to get a letter from a specialist psychiatrist saying I am not ill in a particular way is ridiculous.

Some of the questions are very wide. “What else should the Government have included in its proposals, if anything?” Design your own system.

Unfortunately, there is the question “Are the provisions in the Equality Act for the provision of single-sex and separate-sex spaces and facilities in some circumstances clear and useable for service providers and service users? If not, is reform or further guidance needed?” It gives transphobes an excuse to vomit their hate.

These are my answers to the questions. I have not decided whether to give evidence. Evidence should not be published elsewhere. If it is longer than 3000 words you should give a summary.

Will the Government’s proposed changes meet its aim of making the process “kinder and more straight forward”?

No.

Should a fee for obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate be removed or retained? Are there other financial burdens on applicants that could be removed or retained?

The fee should be no greater than for a duplicate birth certificate. Doctor’s letters cost money. If you have a GRC, tell of the worry and expense. If not, say what has deterred you. If you can’t yet, say what difference it might make.

Should the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria be removed?

Yes (see above).

Should there be changes to the requirement for individuals to have lived in their acquired gender for at least two years?

It should be possible to get a GRC before living in the acquired gender. Though the NatWest bank had a policy allowing change of gender, the ignorant man who served me did not know it, and demanded that I produce a passport in my new name before he would change my name on my account. I had to complain about him. The time I need a GRC is when I change all my details. So, giving evidence:

What is your view of the statutory declaration and should any changes have been made to it?

It should record only that I am trans, and what my gender is, in the words I choose.

Does the spousal consent provision in the Act need reforming? If so, how? If it needs reforming or removal, is anything else needed to protect any rights of the spouse or civil partner?

If the spouse or civil partner objects to gender change, the marriage is over. Either the objection or the change could be construed to be “unreasonable behaviour” so there is grounds for divorce for either party. The other party should not be able to block gender recognition. Again, the call is for “evidence”- I might leave that question for those who have had a spousal refusal of consent. If you have had that experience, give evidence.

Should the age limit at which people can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) be lowered?

Yes. Again, if you have had the experience of transition before age 18, or knowing you wanted to, tell the committee about it.

What impact will these proposed changes have on those people applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate, and on trans people more generally?

Virtually none. Here is the Ministerial statement. The changes are to “place the whole procedure online”, which makes no sense- you swear or affirm a statutory declaration before a solicitor or magistrate, and cannot do that online. And to reduce the fee of £140, which is not the main expense.

What else should the Government have included in its proposals, if anything?

Remove the requirement for evidence of living in the acquired gender. My word should be sufficient. Giving evidence to the committee, explain what difficulty you had getting the necessary documents. I sent off wage slips. Not everyone has them.

Does the Scottish Government’s proposed Bill offer a more suitable alternative to reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004?

Yes. I wrote about the draft bill. It is better in that it removes the requirement for evidence of living in the acquired gender, and the need for a diagnosis, but the waiting time is unnecessary.

Wider issues concerning transgender equality and current legislation:

Why is the number of people applying for GRCs so low compared to the number of people identifying as transgender?

Expense, delay, and the ability to get passport and driving licence without a GRC. I have not shown my GRC to anybody. It did not change my rights, my self-perception or others’ understanding of me in any way. If you do not have a GRC, say why not.

Are there challenges in the way the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010 interact? For example, in terms of the different language and terminology used across both pieces of legislation.

Getting a GRC does not affect trans women’s rights to be in women’s spaces. The relevant provisions are in schedule 3 of the Equality Act. Paragraphs 26-27 allow services to be for one sex, and paragraph 28 allows trans women to be excluded from women’s services. Lawyers can interpret the provisions. For evidence, write of any time you have been excluded, or felt uncomfortable or unwelcome. For example, I have been stared at in the changing room of swimming pools, and felt uncomfortable, though I have a right to be there. Quakers have been divided.

Are the provisions in the Equality Act for the provision of single-sex and separate-sex spaces and facilities in some circumstances clear and useable for service providers and service users? If not, is reform or further guidance needed?

The thought of complaining or raising court action about exclusion terrifies me. Evidence would be useful if you have been excluded, or have complained.

Does the Equality Act adequately protect trans people? If not, what reforms, if any, are needed

No. Remove the ability to exclude one or all trans women from women’s spaces. We can be excluded, just like any other women, if we behave in an unmanageable or objectionable way. Write of your experience of being excluded, or of being unwilling to access a service.

The Equality Act should ban discrimination on the ground of gender, not only of sex and “gender reassignment”. If there were a protected characteristic of gender, no-one could enforce gender stereotypes. That would please the TERFs, as well as trans people. For example, you could be required to dress to a certain standard at work, but not required to wear skirts.

What issues do trans people have in accessing support services, including health and social care services, domestic violence and sexual violence services?

Are legal reforms needed to better support the rights of gender-fluid and non-binary people? If so, how?

Give evidence of your experience.

Can you affect the committee report? The Women and Equalities Committee reported on trans rights, and recommended worthwhile reforms. I fear those six Tories want to roll back the recommendations. Trans groups will reply. I will too, for what it’s worth. But again, I will be required to tell my deepest anguish, and possibly have it published under my name, with little chance of any good coming of it. The government batted away the last WEC report. I have, nevertheless, sent in evidence.