Snowdrops

And now, some snowdrops, seen under a tree by the roadside as I cycled home from the Quaker meeting. Unwisely, I ventured onto Mumsnet where yet another pile-on on trans rights is occurring, with allegations of threats to women and women’s rights and much offensive language, and I just can’t be bothered.

Look! Snowdrops!

First someone cited my blog as evidence of sex offenders pretending to be trans. Well, there is a suggestion of prisoners falsely claiming to be trans, but of the estimate of about eighty trans people in prison, only someone with access to their medical records and criminal records could report reliably whether they are mostly sex offenders, or what diagnoses they have of gender dysphoria, or whether they transitioned before entering prison. If an IPP (Indeterminate sentence for Public Protection) is generally problematic, it should be problematic for a trans woman. Some people in segregated units are sex offenders, but other offenders can be sent there if they are under threat in the general population, as trans women often would be. One, who committed suicide, was a rapist. Women need protected from rapists; but the arguments about whether trans women should self-ID outside prison and about where trans prisoners should be held are different. I try, here, to show the complexity of the situation, so am vulnerable to parts being taken out of context.

Then they linked to Autogynephilia, to argue I am a sex pervert, so not entitled to consideration. Women need protected from such as me. There was a long post from an androphile trans woman, and some sympathy for her being lumped in with us perverts. Well, that’s inconsistent: unless you accept the arguments of brain differences in androphiles, where feminists challenge the arguments of brain differences between the sexes, the androphile is as offensive as the gynephile. The other argument against androphiles transitioning is that the desire comes from homophobia, the thought that they must be women as they are attracted to men. I don’t know if anyone who clicked the link got the point that the autogynephilia hypothesis could not explain transition being a cure for gender dysphoria. As more people clicked than posted, possibly some did.

Then they linked to A Nurse who is Trans. A trans woman, who had not transitioned, went to give a cervical smear to a woman who had requested a female nurse to do the test. The trans woman got a cis woman to do the test, but not before blurting out that she is trans. The reason she has stubble and close cropped hair is that she has not transitioned yet.

I was angry, posting then. One mistake on a smear test appointment, quickly put right, is not news, but the Murdoch press pick on it to inflame passions against trans women. My post was used to argue autogynephiliac perverts have no empathy for the concerns of women. I have, actually. These concerns matter, though I feel Women’s Aid is quite capable of deciding whether they can employ trans women, as they are considering now, so women working full time on women’s rights for the most vulnerable don’t necessarily have the same absolutist position as some posters on Mumsnet.

I need somewhere to go. The “All-Gender toilet” in Tate Britain was formerly the disabled person’s toilet, so my choice is between risking confrontation with a carer angry at my occupying the toilet they need or a woman angry at me in hers. Fortunately the general run of society, apart from some vocal conservatives and Evangelical Christians, tolerate me in both. Even some gender critical feminists tolerate me!

Gender-conforming in schools

When Jeremy Bem, aged 4, went to school wearing hair slides, a boy in his class hounded him, saying only girls wear those. His mother, a psychologist, reports that eventually he was driven to show off his penis to prove his maleness. The other said, “Everyone has a penis. Only girls wear barrettes.”

If schools can widen the space in which young people feel comfortable in their non‑conformity, and all gender expressions are accepted then it may become clear that transition is not the only answer for all. So says the Transgender Trend resource pack for schools, condemned by Stonewall as a deeply damaging document, packed with factually inaccurate content. Not only does it fail to reflect the real experiences of trans young people, it actively encourages schools to take steps that risk them falling foul of their legal duties and duty of care to pupils. I agree with Transgender Trend, so far; enforcement of gender in schools tortures pupils, and medical transition with hormones and surgery should not be the only response.

Jeremy was quite sure he was a boy, and possibly did not wear hair clasps ever after. The bullying would restrict his choices; I hope he felt empowered to choose as he wished, hair in clasps or loose, long or short, barrettes pink and sparkly or a rich, restrained maroon- symbols of masculinity or femininity which should both be his birthright, for we are all a rich mix of both. It would be worrying if a boy child one day wore barrettes and the next was told he was trans, but what happens instead is children having to work hard for it to be accepted that they are trans; and then they may be referred to specialists.

Children should be able to play with the signifiers of gender, of both genders if they wish, and play differently on different days. There is no characteristic or quality of one sex which the other does not exhibit, and which is not equally good in both. Moulding into gender harms everyone. I am completely with TT’s aim To create a culture of respect for ‘difference’ which allows children to reject the gender stereotypes for their sex but am unsure of the second half- without feeling they must also reject their bodies in order to be their ‘authentic selves’. Why would an AMAB child say s/he was a girl? Is it just because of gender stereotypes, or is there something else?

Kate, now in her late twenties who acquired testosterone illegally and injected it for a year while at university, writes, I know now that my belief I was transgender was largely due to internalised misogyny and homophobia. Once I realised the truth, my dysphoria all but disappeared and I feel much happier in myself. To me that illustrates the difficulty of believing what gender-variant people say, either those who transition happily or who revert. We are under the pressure of gender. There are many “reasons” we could adopt for transitioning or detransitioning, which are rather verbal formulations or rationalisations. I wanted to, more than anything else in the world. And, I found it did not solve my problems. We want people to be simply trans or not-trans, but we change our minds. Trans is a choice, not a state: we transition because we decide to, not because we are innately, truly trans.

So I am with TT’s set of suggestions for stamping out gender enforcement, “broadening gender expectations and relaxing rules”. Accept children’s non-stereotypical behaviour, praise a girl for being brave, compliment a boy on his gentleness; make uniform and hair length rules unisex; the real challenge comes in this: Encourage questioning and critical thinking around cultural messages and
societal expectations. That frees children to be themselves, but not particularly to fit society. Schools are often more conservative than that.

Encourage questioning, and people will defy crude pigeonholes. A conservative might seamlessly adopt trans into the conservative culture, saying, we have this way to (partial) acceptance for people like you. You adopt the way forward suggested by your elders and betters. Or, trans is liberal, where individuals find our true selves, against social pressure to conform to gender. Can we not agree that the gender stereotypes are harmful to individuals, and should be challenged?

(c) Paisley Museum and Art Galleries, Renfrewshire Council Collections, Including Collections Associated with the Paisley Art Institute; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Affirmations

I was powerfully affirmed last night, speaking in public about the trans experience. I was my usual charismatic self. I did it well. I formulated a question for the audience which people found excellent. Someone commented that while the other two told of their difficulties in finding their true selves, I powered in with “In April 2002 I transitioned male to female”. I spoke positively, about  finding the courage to transition when I was accepted as a member, about my talents being used, and my hope for reconciliation with gender critical feminists through Friends. We went for a pint after, and they offered me the chance to speak again, which I took. I like these experiences.

I had a series of heart-opening experiences during the day. I went to the Tate Modern, which was hoaching with kiddies, as it is half term. The Turbine Hall is carpeted, and all the swings were occupied. The scaffold holding the swings, stretching two thirds the length of the hall and above the lower bridge, is worth seeing. A huge pendulum swings above. The Modigliani exhibition was hoaching too, and I went through it quickly. Those nudes are too close to the poses in the porn mags I looked at in my twenties, as I tried to cure myself of cross-dressing with heterosexual desires, but one picture of Jeanne Hebuterne has the most stunning, haunting blue eyes. I was walking through the galleries paying little attention, but they grabbed me.

Before I went to meet H at the Courtauld Institute, where we had lunch together and saw their collection from the 14th to the 21st centuries. A Cezanne of a Swiss lake haunts me, the rich red-brown of the mountains. Then I walked over Waterloo Bridge to Tate Modern. I wanted to see you but you could not join me, and I am filled with misery. No, really, you could not, and sent a fairly warm text explaining, and still. After the gallery I crossed the Millennium Bridge in the sunshine, gazing up at St Pauls. I am- here, myself in the World, aware. I was not with my petty concerns but in the moment, where I was. I feel useless, incapable, unable to feed or please myself and surrounded by wonders.

In Friends House, the bookshop has Testosterone Rex, a gender-critical psychology, and Trans Britain, our journey from the shadows, together. I have the achievement and delight, the despair and feelings of worthlessness, together. I wish the affirmation penetrated deeper. I am frightened and alone.

— has in her fridge the means to end it all, when her physical ailments get too much for her, someone told me. She had to go on the Dark Web, and use cryptocurrency. He told me this in awe, as a thing he could not but share, and I share it with you, though not identifying the woman. On the train I was able to do a small kindness: a woman sat apart from her daughter, aged about ten, and I swapped seats so they could sit together. In the Tate members’ room there was a sophisticated woman, introducing a girl about the same age, speaking to her as an equal, treating her to cake and talking of the art works, inculcating similar sophistication. It is a gift.

A Quaker said, oh, you’re Clare, you write all those articles! Yes, that’s me. “You must read so much!” I don’t, actually, I said. I hardly read at all. (Opinion articles on the Guardian and NYT websites don’t count, only books count.) I had this self-image of the person who reads a lot, which led me to read Proust Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, and now don’t, perhaps because of depression. I buy books and hardly touch them. It seemed reading a book might be a task to devote myself to, I decide to read because it is right for me rather than imagining I will read because it is a thing I do, then realising I don’t just do it. I buy a book as an act of faith. In St Pancras I play the piano, defiantly. This is who I am, what I can do. I looked around after, and a woman caught my eye, smiling.

The colours on this reproduction are far cooler than I remember.

How many trans people?

It depends on what you mean by trans people: people with gender recognition certificates, people living full time in a new gender, people who would like to transition but for insuperable difficulties, people who cross-dress…

Is the number growing? There are no clear answers. The Office for National Statistics has no established estimates. The census of 2011 had a question asking sex, giving the options male or female. I am non-binary. There was no question on that.

Since 2005, only a few thousand people have received gender recognition certificates, but they are expensive, and require a specialist psychiatrist’s letter. Many might not bother, but would get a GRC after self-certification. About two hundred trans people a year have genital operations on the NHS, about the number of new GRCs.

Many more people might call themselves transgender. The ONS puts it at 0.5-1%, or about half a million people. The Equality and Human Rights Commission put it at 1%.

Ten years ago the government commissioned the Gender Identity Research and Education Society, GIRES, to estimate the number of trans people. They considered passports, which can be changed as soon as you transition. They estimated 300,000-500,000 people experiencing some degree of gender variance. Many would not act on that, or might dress at home. It’s about feelings, not actions. If you are unhappy with your assigned gender, and have to hide that, it affects you adversely.

In the next census, there should be a question on sex assigned at birth then a question on gender identity. If it asked “do you identify as a transgender person” not all the 500,000 people might say yes, and some might mock the question: the 2011 census question on religion identified 176,632 “Jedi knights”, down from 390,000 in 2001. Some are in denial, and some would not like to admit it. Many of that half million will never take any action to change their gender presentation.

Not all trans children come out to their parents, who would answer the census question on their behalf. The 2021 census will have to be designed soon.

The Yougov poll asked people to define their gender on a scale from 0, completely masculine, to 6, completely feminine. 2% of males aged 18-24 said they were “completely feminine”, 8% said they did not know, and 3% said they were neither masculine nor feminine. No females aged 18-24 said they were completely masculine, but 7% did not know and 10% said neither. More men had a negative than positive view of masculinity, but women were more positive. Both sexes were strongly positive about femininity. Only 28% of British men, but 42% of American men, said they were completely masculine.

I wonder how many women “wear the trousers” in their heterosexual relationship, but can’t find anyone even asking the question.

Most data from More or Less on Radio 4.

Loneliness, shyness, attention

In the world I have created for myself, I rarely have to suffer unwelcome attention. Like the child in sister’s underwear, certain s/he does not wish to be seen by others, in much of my life I do not want to be seen. I need to be able to bear being seen, to go out into the world, and want to understand why I crave attention and seek it out, yet hide away.

I seek attention. I stand before forty people at the HAI weekend and tell a story. I get a few laughs and applause at the end. I know some people are afraid of public speaking, but don’t get why. There can be a difficult audience, but generally people are wanting you to succeed, paying you all their attention, the room is focussed on you. I love it. And blogging, I like attention. On Friday 193 people from 27 countries on six continents looked at my blog, and that pleases me. One from Uganda has made twelve page-views on Saturday, showing sustained interest. It’s probably the same person as the four page views from there the day before. Likes, even follows, are cheap and attention seeking- I’ve looked at you, look at me.

Attention in real life is reciprocal. We need attention. We are a social species. Oddballs may set out to walk across Australia or the Arctic alone, but at University one summer I had three days in a row without a meaningful conversation and at the end I was climbing the walls. Now I have three days like that quite often. Next week I will see a friend for lunch whose company I enjoy, and I will make many spoken and body-language signals of my regard for her. She will do the same for me. It will be delightful. We will make each other think, and provoke feeling, and in a sophisticated, adult way, play together.

Getting over 250 upvotes on a comment in the Guardian- it has to be made early so that it is visible to anyone scrolling the article, and it has to be trenchantly stating a popular view- feels good. Not as good as attention in person but it is my best substitute. Or I shared on a facebook trans group, and people piled on me. I argued back, and would not give the last word, but it was exhausting. I do not like negative attention, but there I was arguing a point I thought was useful and truthful, against a negative and defeatist denial. The negative attention was wearing, but I was right to persist. Facebook is not just a parasite on the human need for attention, but our need to feel worthwhile too.

Work is the way people get to feel valuable, such that some cannot bear to retire. Meaning and purpose in lives needs to be affirmed by other people. At any time in the last five years I might have taken up voluntary work, and been clear that I was doing something worthwhile, generally affirmed by others, but I have not. I am gregarious. I like company. Voluntary work would give me company, and I have considered it but never applied to start.

Here’s Hayley Webster, or Scott, on shyness in the Guardian. She tried to be her perfect self, and hide her real self away. Yes, I get that. And watching herself on video she saw herself, apologetic, well-meaning, softly spoken… shrinking into myself to not inhabit space. I didn’t want to be too loud, too much or too anything. Yeah. Me too. My perfect self had to win all the tribunals, and if not then I was no good. And when I could not win, I could not face trying. Feeling I was not doing something worthwhile, and getting some unpleasant attention, in actual hostility, finally stopped me. I wrote this just before I stopped, and that condensating man in Cumbernauld has been a symbol of why I stopped for me ever since.

It has not made sense to me, so I wrote this. That’s the other reason why I blog. Why can I stand on a stage and yet not bear to go to work? Because of an audience rooting for me, and a man expressing contempt. But I have to! I have to!

People seek negative attention, says Leo Benedictus in the Guardian. It does not work for me. I would say those people are doing something they are particularly committed to, because they think it necessary for themselves, or vindication/revenge, or even the right thing, bolstered by much positive attention from their cell.

Not all women

“Not all women have vaginas,” tweeted Munroe Bergdorf, a trans woman. “Think about your message, use your voice for all women, not just yourself.” She objected to pussy hats on the women’s marches.

I disagree. Yes, there is pressure on trans women to have genital surgery. No-one should need to be sterilised to be recognised for who they are. Trans women are women. Dwelling on reproductive rights and reproductive matters can be a way of excluding trans women, deliberately. We feel rejected and excluded, and lots of things can remind us of that. Rejection hurts, and a rude comment in the street could depress me for days when I transitioned. Yes, all of that, and a vagina is still a symbol of womanhood.

I am not saying we should not object to allusion to vaginas because objection is impolitic. TERFs might express anger about avoiding discussion of reproductive matters, which affect most women, though some are infertile, and not all women without uteruses are trans women. Ordinary feminists might hear that and agree. Our extremism may alienate potential allies, especially when we tell them what to do.

The reproductive system, the beauty, pain and danger of it, is central to feminism. We should be allies on that, not because it is politic, but because it is right. If you don’t empathise with women’s concerns, you are still a woman, but lacking in some humanity. All oppressed people should oppose all oppression.

Our oppression is around our bodies, too, judged, scrutinised and assaulted. We may feel alienated from our bodies because they are seen as male. Yet not all talk of bodies has the purpose of excluding us, and it must be possible to talk of bodies and the oppression of bodies.

Munroe Bergdorf was objecting to a symbol, not a campaign: a cat-eared hat, because Dolt 45 boasts of grabbing pussies. It is a symbol of genitalia which most women have. How wonderful, to wear a symbol of genitalia on your head, for they are private but not shameful. The hat shows pride in every part of a body, even the ones we hide. Men wore them at the marches in solidarity, and surely trans women can too.

Perhaps there is nothing all women have in common. Not all women have the same gender identity, which is shaped by experience. Gender identity matters most to those who have to assert it, like trans people. Some women are close to stereotypical femininity and some rail against it; and non-binary people may have another gender identity and women’s bodies. What is your gender identity anyway- is it “woman” or “feminine”?

There is a slippery slope here. Refusing a wedding cake to a gay couple is not the same as restaurants excluding black people, which impinges on all of life. The wedding cake is only a symbol of rejection, but everyone has suffered rejection and is vulnerable to it, even cis white non-disabled well-educated males. The law forces service providers to provide services equally because the symbol matters and there is widespread rejection of gay people who don’t pass as straight. Needing to pass is oppression. The slightest rejection or erasure hurts, but the lack of logical consistency in the term “woman” is the very thing that allows us to call ourselves women, so perhaps we should not draw attention to the lack: the logical consistency simplest to comprehend excludes us.

Reproductive rights matter to all who can get pregnant, and should matter to all women. Biology matters. Munroe Bergdorf’s tweet brought out the TERFs, mocking, angry, yet appearing sensible to lots of people who have not thought about the matter (so it is important to be politic in these things). Gaby Hinsliff is a writer for the Guardian who generally writes on feminist issues and rarely on trans. There’s a woman alive now to contradict pretty much any given statement about what a woman is, she wrote, arguing to include us on all-women shortlists, but she was exasperated by Munroe’s tweet. Just let women, and men, be what they want to be. The rules are that there are no rules, she wrote earlier. I agree, for that is the best way for us to be included.

Possibly, at some time in the future someone will come up with a verbal understanding encapsulating what it is to be a woman and including every woman, but not men. And people will stop squabbling about that, and go onto something else.

Gender equality

Long before the Equality Act, trans people used the Sex Discrimination Act to argue rights for ourselves. I met an accountant who, fed up with going to work male, went in a skirt suit, and was dismissed and walking home an hour later; but others kept their employment rights. Arguably the statutory instruments drafted to regulate trans rights reduced them.

The Equality Act protects “transsexual persons” who “propose to undergo a process for the purpose of reassigning sex”. The heading is “gender reassignment” so at best the law makes disentangling sex and gender difficult. They are different, but not in law. Medical jargon is the same, referring to the “homosexual transsexual” suffering from “gender dysphoria”.

The Act also protects men and women from discrimination on the grounds of sex, with some exceptions for employers such as women’s refuges. However it only prohibits “less favourable” treatment, not different treatment, which is why arguments that women should not have to wear skirts to the office fail. Making women wear skirts is not less favourable than making men wear jackets and ties. So different treatment is enshrined in law.

That means the law supports the Patriarchy in saying there are two genders, and that generally they are mapped onto the two sexes, though a tiny number of people may swap from one to the other. How may we be liberated? One way is to change the idea of gender so that it is not thought to restrict capacity, such as by the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, which removed restrictions on women practising as lawyers or civil servants, or on juries. There I go, conflating sex and gender again. There is no reason why women should not be lawyers.

The other is to divorce the concept of gender from that of sex. Men can be feminine, women can be masculine. There is no characteristic, aptitude, quality, virtue or vice peculiar to one sex, or which is not equally good or bad in both. We signal our gender with our clothes and body language.

No-one should be treated badly because another disapproves of their gender presentation or their gendered behaviour. No-one should have the right to enforce gendered behaviour on another.

Arguably, the very concept of gender is oppressive because it is imagined to fit the sexes- man/masculine, woman/feminine. Ideally, society should abandon it; but while it exists people should be protected from discrimination because of perceived gender.

So my Equality scheme would prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sex. Men and women should not be treated more or less favourably, and any necessary exceptions should be specifically defined, such as the genuine occupational requirement for some jobs, or the All-woman shortlist while women are underrepresented.

It would also prohibit discrimination on the ground of actual or perceived gender: the signals we give, the behaviour and the underlying attributes and desires. An employee should be judged on their skills and abilities, not on how they look. This would permit a wider range of gendered behaviour in both sexes, and gradually strip away the link between sex and gender, men and masculinity, women and femininity. Where we generalise and stereotype people because of their sex, and disapprove of those not conforming to our stereotypes, the law could intervene and guide us away from that. The law would be applied in the worst of cases, and would guide society and people’s ideas of what is acceptable so that the stereotypes fell away.

Sex dysphoria

Some find that the most distressing thing about the dysphoria they experience as trans people is their physical sexual organs.

For me, transition was an attempt to express my true self. My gender is feminine, I am most comfortable responding in a feminine way, and part of my problem is that I conflated the symbols of femininity, such as the soft floral sweater, with the underlying reality, the will towards support and reconciliation; or that symbol of masculinity, the penis, with what you do with it- do you penetrate, or become enveloped?

People conflate symbols and reality. How could I communicate my femininity except by transition? Body language can communicate femininity without particular clothes. We also conflate transsexualism with transgenderism- the protected characteristic in the Equality Act is “gender reassignment”, the protected group “transsexual persons”, and doctors give hormones and surgery to a man who is feminine.

There was one thing I could do: become transsexual, which means expressing myself differently, but also dressing like a transsexual and altering my body like a transsexual.

That tweed skirt suit with the frumpy little frills on it, fashionable some time in the 1980s, that you like because you know no better- or those gorgeous elastic-sided long boots, with a bit of a heel- these things are unnecessary, and some make a thing of it. “I wear jeans far more than I wear skirts”. And I would rather wear dresses. It makes me feel more comfortable. Using the symbol gives me permission to express myself in that way.

And “I am female. Being male hurt” said someone. I read that, I may be wrong, as needing the body to be changed. That is not a signal, as you show it to very few people- unless it is a signal to yourself. Yes, I am a true transsexual, I have had the operation. I feel I had the operation because of social pressure. It was expected.

It is a package. Way of being + way of presenting + physical changes. If I could have tolerated the way of being without the way of presenting, that would have been better, but it seemed impossible to me. Then, if I could have had the way of being and the way of presenting and realised that did not necessitate physical changes I might regret…

I understand that some people have physical changes without fully transitioning. AMAB people who present male but have had surgery, or hormones meaning they need a binder to get through the working day. So I have heard, but never heard from anyone like that directly. If this is you please do say. And some have the operation because it is what matters most, and transition, but don’t go for the “feminine” presentation. Though women wear jeans, and can use them to look feminine/signal femininity.

Just because I now feel I had the operation because of social pressure does not mean that everyone does, and certainly not that anyone else would believe that of themselves. Dysphoria arises from my place in society, and I felt that surgery would alter that place- it did, but not enough. Still there is the feeling that real trans women want surgery, as well as the feeling that trans women should not have to be sterilised to be recognised, both held strongly.

We could accept each others’ variation if we did not feel so scrutinised by the general public. You do not need an excuse to be as you are. Neither do I, it just felt that way. I do not need to find excuses for others- this fat person has a slow metabolic rate, that gay person was the opposite sex in a former life; but people do.

Marie Dean

The “cross-dressing Burnley burglar” is serving an indeterminate sentence for public protection, after breaking into houses and stealing underwear and being charged with burglary and voyeurism. S/he videoed herself on her phone, in the underwear in the victims’ bedrooms, and the quote picked by the Lancashire Telegraph to give its readers an entertaining feeling of disgust, loathing and derision was “I hope you don’t mind me borrowing your underwear. They smell nice.” Possibly the sentence would not have been so great but for the videos. The story is the worst kind for the trans community- predatory trans in your daughter’s bedroom, getting sexually aroused- but these are upsetting things to do, and ordinary decent readers of newspapers will want to read about them.

Then she was back in the news because she is on hunger strike. This got a sympathetic write-up in The Observer (the Guardian’s Sunday paper). She claims that the prison authorities “deny her chosen gender”, and it is not clear what that means. She has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, she is in a men’s prison, and she claims prison officials “refused to give hair straighteners, epilator or any makeup”. Hair straighteners get hot, and could conceivably be used to assault someone, but if a friend outside is willing to give her makeup, or she can buy it herself, I don’t see why she should be denied it. A letter from friends outside said she should be “given back her clothes”. Convicted prisoners wear prison uniform, but she should be entitled to wear women’s uniform.

In the same prison run by incompetent profiteers Serco, Jenny Swift killed herself. She complained of “bullying”, though Serco claimed the prison officer was being “robust”. She was angry at officers calling her “fella”. Prisons are understaffed and underfunded, with little or no attempt at rehabilitation and increasing suicide, self-harm and violence.

The indeterminate sentence indicates Marie Dean was seen as a danger to the public, and that is not just from burglary. The judge must have believed her behaviour could lead to physical harm. She has no right to be in a woman’s prison, as the Ministry of Justice has to take care of her safety and that of other inmates. She has the right to be treated with dignity, and that means being able to express herself as female and be free from violence. “Assessments will be made on a case by case basis” says the government.

The story is a gift to the TERFs, and in the Murdoch press Janice Turner took advantage. Corbyn must decide if he’ll sacrifice allies who aren’t prepared to see women’s safety compromised for the sake of dogma. This conflates two completely different issues, whether trans women should be allowed on all woman shortlists for appointing candidates for election, and whether a trans woman should be placed in a women’s prison. Gender identity does not erase biological reality, she argued. Well, so what? Jeremy Corbyn has decreed that gender self-identity is official policy. That means that transitioned women can get on all women shortlists, and that Marie Dean should be allowed to express herself as a woman and not be misgendered. It does not mean that she should be placed in a women’s prison. Marie Dean, and the disgust many will feel reading of her crimes, is irrelevant to how trans women should be treated, but trotted out by Janice Turner to oppose any trans rights at all.

Notour TERF Sarah Ditum played the same game in the New Statesman. If being denied hair straighteners can be presented as a cruel and unusual punishment, one might imagine that housing female prisoners with a voyeur would rate somewhere even higher. But in prison, as everywhere else, the expectation appears to be that women’s safety comes last. Belittle the difficulties the trans woman faces, and conflate the threat she poses with issues pertaining to trans women generally:  it’s so dispiriting to hear Jeremy Corbyn on Marr this weekend, saying things like “we should respect people however they identify” or “where you’ve self-identified as a woman, then you are treated as a woman.”

Also in the Murdoch press was the story that Women’s Aid was considering whether to employ trans women. That is, an organisation run from top to bottom by women, committed to the needs of their service users and women in general, with a great deal of expertise on those needs and with knowledge of the relevant law, would make a decision in the interests of their organisation. They may decide to continue refusing to employ trans women. However, that is boring, so to make the news entertaining we had a load of TERFs wheeled out to make “Help, help the sky is falling!” quotes, to make readers feel pleasurable disgust and fear.

Lancashire telegraph.
The Observer on Marie Dean, and the Guardian on the death of Jenny Swift.
The New Statesman.

“Who I am” v “Men in women’s toilets”

I am hopeful about greater rights for trans people, because our arguments are more winsome. We gain sympathy, and the TERFs and conservatives don’t. We lose on logic. “Piss off, you’re a man” they say, and keep reiterating. One TERF identifies as a MERF (Go on, guess-) they are talking of TIMs, trans-identified males, and M-T, male to trans rather than male to female. If a trans woman spends too much time with their websites and twitter accounts, and not with affirmation in the mainstream press from the likes of, say, Margaret Atwood, they can get wearing. I take encouragement from their desperation: But they’re men! Men! Men in women’s washrooms! They just get ignored. “Trans women are women” say female Labour MPs, and here’s Angela Rayner MP, who has an inspiring life story and is just pure dead brilliant:

We are also calling on the Government to reform the Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act 2010 to change the protected characteristic of “gender reassignment” to “gender identity” to provide proper protection for trans people.

Margaret Atwood, feminist: It is always – ‘What do you mean by the word?’ For instance, some feminists have historically been against lipstick and letting transgender women into women’s washrooms. Those are not positions I have agreed with.

We generate empathy. This is who I am. This is what I wanted, more than anything else in the world. This wins hearts, and where the heart is with us the mind will find a way. Cold rationality has nothing on sympathetic emotion.

This morning I fell off my bicycle again. I hate that road, narrow and busy, with a narrow path by the side that cyclists are permitted to use, which is potholed and muddy. I skidded in a muddy puddle, bent the supports of my mudguard, possibly knocked my derailleur out of alignment and the chain came off. And after, every motorist that passed me without courtesy, just a foot away, without care for my safety, shocked and angered me.

So, I don’t get propositioned, cat-called and touched up in the street. And I can sympathise absolutely with a woman who, having suffered a particularly egregious example, dodged into a toilet and was angry and shocked to see a trans woman. Normally it would be bearable but in that particular situation it was not. There, I have given you two examples where the slings and arrows of quotidian irritation might become too much, and perhaps you can supply your own. I feel if TERFs said, I saw this trans woman in the loo and it creeped me out, it was too much for me after what I had endured that day, they might win more people over. But instead they say, men in women’s clothes, whether trans women or not, might be a threat; and everyone knows they are exaggerating; and trans women cannot be blamed for people pretending to be trans women.

And if one said, I have given birth, I love my body, it is a woman’s body doing what a woman’s body does, and I loathe the simulacrum of a woman that is a trans woman- that might work too, though love of your own physicality need not mean despising someone else’s, nor excluding that person.

So they are reduced to calling us perverts, even paedophiles. It won’t work. Hate never does.