Nick Cohen

How does your own oppression affect how you see the oppression of others? Nick Cohen spoke pungently against the antisemitism in the Labour party; why does he hate on any expression of disapproval of transphobia? Why can he not see that transphobia is as vile?

Antisemitism is the stain on Christianity- from Matthew’s Gospel, “His blood be on us and on our children”, through the German Crusade in 1096, when French and German peasants destroyed Jewish communities in Speyer, Worms and Mainz, through the Blood libel to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, antisemitism besmirches European civilisation. It survives in QAnon, where the Moneyed elites allegedly ruining the world are said to be Jewish, rather than owners and senior executives of fossil fuel companies.

Antisemitism exists in obsessive form, where all an individual’s anger and resentment is channelled at Jews, and in a widespread, mild form, involving distaste. So does transphobia.

There is antisemitism in the Labour party, chiefly in the milder form, but by the time Chris Williamson MP was accused, his wrongdoing was to say that the response to antisemitism was overblown, and he was tainted by guilt by association with antisemites. That was enough for him to be suspended as an MP and silenced. His talk at Brighton Friends Meeting House was cancelled, according to Jane Dawson, head of BYM external communications, because of threats of violence. Nick Cohen tweeted, “You can be an anti-racist or you can be a supporter of the Labour party. But you can’t be both.”

I respect Cohen’s opposition to Labour, even if his work against them helped get the most appalling government of my lifetime elected, so why does he not notice transphobia? Instead, he amplifies it. He wrote for The Spectator, the British Breitbart (the two share writers) to claim JK Rowling was not transphobic. He wrote of the transphobic novel Troubled Blood “nothing is made of the fact that the killer wears a wig and a woman’s coat as a disguise when approaching one of his victims”. This is a “tiny detail”. Well, why put in the detail? Could it possibly be linked to Rowling’s transphobia? One victim? The Guardian’s direct quote referred to victims. Cohen made no mention of Rowling’s transphobic screed, as if his memory does not stretch back to June. Rowling can’t make a serial killer real enough to be repulsive in himself, so she is forced to put in details, and one of them is that Creed dresses female when seeking victims.

It’s a common tactic. Minimise and deny the transphobia, find something unpleasant in the reaction and inveigh against that. Cohen then quotes at great length the more angry and unpleasant tweets against Rowling. Every British national newspaper is a willing platform for transphobia. Trans people objecting to it are outside, shouting, and some have to shout loudly for attention, and some people shouting may be trolls attempting to amplify discord. Though he admits “What the hell are they screaming about now?” is a recurrent thought when he turns on Twitter, and though we know how abusive the transphobes can be, he incites hatred against all trans people objecting to Rowling by quoting the worst of us.

I was going to write about the person in an oppressed group who only sees his own oppression, and can therefore oppress others. We should object to the oppression, not to the action against oppressors. In Cohen’s case it is not so simple. He recognises that “The novel’s descriptions of how men condescend to Robin Ellacott, how they send her lewd pictures, grab her, talk over her, and refuse to accept her opinions because they are from a woman” relate to real life. The problem is that he sets feminism against trans women, where in the real world feminists support trans women.

Cohen directly states a transphobic myth, “the safeguards or lack of them governing the clinics that offer hormone suppressing drugs or surgery”- as if NHS doctors give dangerous treatment without due cause.

Experience of oppression is no guarantee that you will recognise it in other circumstances. Cohen’s self-righteousness, and use of a platform like The Spectator to punch down at his innocent victims- me- don’t make me object to his work against antisemitism, but they do make me hate him.

Troubled Blood

In “Troubled Blood” by JK Rowling, the serial killer Dennis Creed tricks his female victims into his van by wearing a woman’s coat and wig to appear unthreatening. He “camouflaged himself behind an apparently fey and gentle facade”. He was abused as a child, then aged 12 began covertly watching women undress and stealing their underwear, which he wore while masturbating. He is a “genius of misdirection in his neat little white van, dressed in the pink coat he’d stolen from Vi Cooper, and sometimes wearing a wig that, from a distance, to a drunk victim, gave his hazy form a feminine appearance just long enough for his large hands to close over a gasping mouth.” He keeps his victims’ jewellery as trophies.

Is this transphobic? The Guardian books blog said not, saying he is “not portrayed as trans or even called a transvestite”. They say, don’t rise to the Telegraph’s criticism, a week ago (I found the article on Tumblr)

the disappearance of GP Margot Bamborough in 1974, thought to have been a victim of Dennis Creed, a transvestite serial killer. One wonders what critics of Rowling’s stance on trans issues will make of a book whose moral seems to be: never trust a man in a dress.

Pink News did, though it did not report the details. Much of the abuse seems based on the Telegraph review, and the books blog points out the Telegraph likes enraging social justice advocates. Vanity Fair’s headline was “JK Rowling proves her commitment to transphobia in her new novel”, apparently without reading the book. The Independent only read the review, not the book, and recounted Rowling’s other reported transphobia in a worthless article saying nothing anyone interested in the issue didn’t know already.

Vicious transphobe Catherine Bennett repeated Rowling’s transphobic ploy of portraying the dispute as between decent and reasonable women with “concerns” against a baying transactivist mob. Bennett also again obscures the difference between hate crime, which is actual crime, and hate speech, which isn’t. Making misogyny a hate crime would not criminalise any tweet which is not criminal already, as incitement to violence or terrorist threat.

There is a real trans woman serial killer: Beate Schmidt, who murdered five women and a baby. However, fiction multiplies that- “The Silence of the Lambs” came before Rowling’s 900 page doorstop.

Should we care? Well, Rowling clearly hates trans people, demonising us repeatedly. Defences include the argument that Creed is not a trans woman. Well, who is to say? Many people would transition if there was not the storm of hatred, but do not. I know trans women diagnosed by psychiatrists who put off transition. Creed is a figment in a transphobe’s imagination, but some trans women masturbate when dressed female, and may even steal underwear if they cannot get it any other way, especially as children.

Why did Rowling make Creed a cross-dresser? Well, he is a serial killer. Without the writerly skill to make Creed horrific, terrifying or repellent, she resorts to clichés. She finds cross-dressers repulsive, so she imagines her readers will too. She also says he was abused as a child. We cannot assess whether Creed is really trans, because he is a mere grab-bag of characteristics, rather than a character.

That defence of Rowling is transphobic. Creed is not a trans woman, it says: Look, he murders people! Well, trans women can be criminals, just as gay people or left handed people can be. One “bad apple” does not taint all of us, and it is transphobic to judge us all by one criminal trans woman.

Creed wears a woman’s wig and coat. Rowling is associating trans behaviour with murderousness. That is enough to be transphobic. Yes, trans women may be criminals; but there are so few of us, we are a tiny proportion of criminals. For a demonstrated transphobe to give a criminal trans behaviour is transphobic.

Should there be an outcry? There is an outcry because trans people have no power. Ideally, people would see how immoral Rowling’s transphobia is, and stop buying her books. In the real world, some people may buy the book because of Rowling’s transphobia. I imagine Bennett avidly reading a book she would otherwise have sneered at. People tweet because we can’t do anything else. Transphobes at the Telegraph and Times are loudly delighted.

Talking to an anti-trans campaigner

We zoomed for an hour. She ranted for the first twenty minutes.

I saw how paltry were her Gotchas. The absolute facts, which show she and her like are in the right, are victims, include Tara Wolf’s assault. She named Tara’s victim. Then there was a point of their Badness, or their Goodness, which I don’t care about but somehow we both had at our fingertips. So called “Gender-critical” demonstrators were racist at Black Lives Matter demonstrators! BLM has repudiated that, she claims. I really don’t care, but it shows our level of detail and the lengths we go to.

She has a logical basis to her arguments which misses out a great deal of reality but appeals to such people. What is a woman is based on genes, gonads and genitals. Even intersex women are women because of primary or secondary sexual characteristics at birth. Trans women are men, so should no more be in women’s spaces than a seahorse in a stable (my analogy: I cannot resist these plays with words).

She knows that vulnerable women need a space where they will be completely certain that no trans woman could ever come. I questioned her on that. She admitted there are so few trans women, but still asserted the possibility a trans woman might enter would take away the safety.

Then she claims a right to organise as a protected characteristic- to meet and campaign- which I cannot find in the Equality Act. Her protected characteristic is sex, so women with these views should be able to meet and campaign together without objection. She also seems to misunderstand the provisions about excluding trans women from women’s spaces, which assume that trans women are women.

She is wrong about all this, but her certainty is undentable. That we are a tiny, vulnerable minority, and that we can evade transition only by continuing suffering, does not matter to her at all. She is the victim. Lesbians are victims. I say, what about Diva, the lesbian magazine, and Stonewall, whose chief executive was Ruth Hunt, a lesbian, from 2014, now succeeded by Nancy Kelley, also a lesbian. They don’t speak for her, and she resents this.

She dismisses my Gotchas. Right wing? WoLF took a strategic decision, as they could not get funding anywhere else, that one time. Then she mentions a self-hating trans, as if she does not remember that trans writes repetitive, derivative rubbish for The Spectator. I talk of the Times, and she says it is less anti-trans after the editor changed.

On the Labour Party, she does not think she damages it by launching her “Declaration” at the start of the election campaign. Rather, she thinks she is saving it. She tries to persuade socialist campaigners to remain in the party. Three hundred left in one day! On that, I was the dismissive one- three hundred out of half a million.

Then she views her tiny, hating minority as brave lone campaigners. She was at the LGB All Liars launch! There were [self-hating] trans women there! There are lots of lesbian organisations! They are tiny, and it’s always the same dreary obsessives, but she does not see that.

I sat in silence unable to think of anything useful to say. She thinks her lot are the oppressed ones, unable to see how the hard Right are using them. For example, when I wrote to my MP the minister wrote back using the term “single-sex services”, trans excluder jargon claiming there is a rigid distinction between gender and sex and that it matters, rather than “women’s services”. Can there be a meeting of minds? Almost certainly not. That hour on zoom from 8.30, followed by my messing about until midnight, probably contributed to my misery the following day.

I am reading “Always Coming Home” by Ursula LeGuin, in which a woman from an egalitarian society, where wealth is counted in what they give away, goes to a militaristic, theocratic, hierarchical society where wealth is what they take from others and retain. Women are not allowed outside, and are veiled in the presence of men. She writes of the “general of the women”,

If we could have worked and talked together and come to know each other I think it would have been better, for she was not a spiteful person. But that was prevented by our misunderstanding, fixed and made incurable by her jealousy of her power, and my shame.

The least privileged cling to their few privileges, against each other. So much of that book is relevant:

But since the Dayao did not talk decisions over in public council, as people usually do, there was no way for disagreements to come together into agreement. So ideas became opinions, and these made factions, which diverged and became fixed opponents.

I don’t know that talking is possible. I know that our marginalisation is the same. I know that she cannot gain rights by taking away mine. My concept of how we might come together, fighting for the rights of both, involves her welcoming trans women in. Hers involves me campaigning behind that self-hater. I am trapped in the zero-sum game. Could we work for the good of the Labour party?

A pronouns poem

Jill Smith, she/her/hers
it says on her email signature
or her Zoom caption, huge in white on black
when her video is off, showing nothing of her
or the badge she wore when we met in person in another world.
“We invite you to state your pronouns,” they say,
showing how woke their allyship is.
“He/him” says Joe, “she/her” says Sheila,
and I am terrified.
“He/him”, I say, hating the betrayal.
Right now I can’t say “she/her”, because
I remember my father’s reaction,
my sister’s reaction,
or the moment she said “You know, I think he’s telling the truth!”
and I felt myself disappearing as I sat there
and they talked about me
then talked of something else.
Forgive me.
The hate looms larger than your acceptance.

So now I say my pronouns are obvious from my name
like a Free Speech, No Identity Politics, Fox News guest,
except I don’t.
They mean well and I am not going to be rude to them
though I hate my gratitude.
“She/her,” I say.
I like when straights say “he/they,”
it means man, but not too bothered about gender.
But “she/they” is too frightening.
“So you admit you’re not a woman” shout the accusers
pointing their fingers
and I collapse in misery
though they are only in my head.

“She/they/he/it,” I say.
You choose the pronouns.
If you choose “it” I know where you’re coming from.
My pronouns are “We/our/ours”.
If you talk about me
talk about something we share.
Talk about us.

Gender criticism and gender variance

I understand primarily through language, and wrestle with problems through words. The power to name concepts is the power to mould people’s understanding of reality. The power to change names is freedom to become who we truly are.

“Gender critical feminists” are oppressed by gender. Feminine gender stereotypes do not fit them. They would say those stereotypes are patriarchal, and fit no woman, but some people seem to live with the stereotypes more easily than others, and to me it seems the gender critical feminists are oppressed more than most women.

I don’t know how to convince them that some women are happy with the stereotypes. I could refer to the women’s anti-suffrage movement, or women’s campaigns against abortion or contraception.

I cannot work for the interests of gender non-conforming people, trans, non-binary and gender variant folk, without including the gender critical feminists. That means finding common interest, common goals, common things we can work for.

Patriarchal power structures tell us that the problem is each other, that “transgender ideology” prevents women from organising politically as a “sex class”, or that trans excluders stop trans people from living our lives in peace, but really the problem is the gender stereotypes which fit some people very badly, which trans men, AFAB nonbinary people, and “trans-excluding” feminists all deal with in different ways, however similar they might appear to outsiders. The oppression is the same, and we should be allies, not enemies, not demanding that others follow our ways, but accepting all the ways people cope.

My femininity is not the same as the gender critical feminist’s femaleness. Seeing ourselves as opposing sides prevents us addressing the real oppression and directs our energies against each other. This only pleases the oppressors, which is why Charles Koch and the Heritage Foundation fund gender-critical feminists.

Both sides spend more time obsessing than oppressing- messing about on social media and talking amongst ourselves, rather than taking action to exclude trans women, or frightening the people who see us in lavatories.

How does language divide us, and how might language be used to bring us together? I can think of two ways it divides us: the trans allies’ habit of declaring their pronouns, and inclusive language for trans men’s reproductive issues. This does not include the language around whether we are women, or whether we should be in women’s spaces. That is a more intractable problem. I want to achieve language that includes gender critical feminists among the gender variant, to emphasise what we have in common.

When I argue for the inclusion of trans women as women, my argument is that we are not some redefinition of what womanhood is, we are an anomaly, a few harmless people, asylum seekers not colonists, who can be included without so much fuss.

When I argue for inclusive language for trans men- pregnant people, people with cervixes, etc- I argue for their importance. Even though there are about 0.1% trans men and maybe the same number of AFAB nonbinary people, one in a thousand people with wombs, we should change the language to refer to people who menstruate.

I will not, in an attempt to reach out to gender critical feminists, leave behind trans men. And, better inclusive language may be possible. The American Cancer Society said “individuals with a cervix” but the NHS says “women and people with a cervix”. Possibly there is an advantage for all feminists in seeing “women’s problems” as “people problems”, things all people should be concerned about. Period poverty is a problem for society, not just women. Seeing women and men as people with people-gifts rather than masculine or feminine gifts helps all our gifts to be valued and used.

I do not like the term “gender critical” because it feels to me that all the criticism is of transgender- the idea that ones gender can differ from ones sex, or that gender matters, or that we have gender identities. “I don’t have a gender identity” say gender critical feminists. Well, I do. And I feel there could be a term that includes that position and also includes me. “Victim” and “survivor” have been suggested in other situations, and critiqued; possibly “gender oppressed” acknowledges the oppression. We cannot be free of that oppression, entirely. Others have expectations of us and responses to us based on our perceived sex or gender expression, even once we succeed in purging all the internalised self-suppression.

I feel some word- “gender rejecting”, perhaps- could unite trans and gender variant people with gender critical feminists, including all of us, and that would be a benefit. I am happy to call myself “gender critical”- I critique gender stereotypes, finding them oppressive too.

When cis people declare their pronouns in their email signature, their zoom name, or on badges they wear, they are declaring they are allies of trans people, and I would like this allyship to include the gender concerns of gender critical feminists. Robin Dembroff suggests that is achieved by adopting the pronoun “they” for everyone. It rejects gender stereotypes. So people could give their pronouns as “they/their/them”, “she/they” or “he/they”.

You might also put in your email signature “I oppose stereotyping”. Stereotypes are the basis of all of Kyriarchy, not just sexism. If we proclaimed that, we would have to live it too.

So much language divides us. The phrase “sex-based rights” excludes trans women, and even denies that there could be a possibility that excluding us could be remotely objectionable. The phrase “Trans women are women” works the opposite way. Each side can communicate only with its allies, honing its language to express its rectitude. If we are to converse we need a common language and to value each others’ experiences.

Now and not-now, Real Self and mask

There is “Being in the Now”. I am aware of sensory input now. I listen to what people say. I see their body language. I am aware of what I feel now, and it flows without overflowing. I speak what I need to say, now. And there is “Being in past and future”, thinking of what I will say rather than hearing the other, being with worries and ruminations, walking and barely seeing where I am because I am treading the old cognitive paths. Continue reading

Clare Flourish


Nine years ago today I published my first post here, and over nine years have developed a comprehensive trans blog. I have now published 2951 posts and 17 pages, and had 420,640 views, which is an average of 142 views per post, though one, on tucking, has had over 26,000, and my JK Rowling post had over a thousand views on its first day. I have had views from 199 countries, 170,017 from the US, one from Malawi. So if you know anyone with an IP address in the Vatican, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, please get them to have a look. I had 4725 different visitors in June.

I started the blog intending to record my spiritual and personal growth, and I am a more integrated personality than I was then. I go round in circles, revisiting the same issues, and yet it is a spiral, making further progress on each new visit.

As I am British my blog’s principle focus is on Britain, especially as the hard right attack on trans people using “gender critical feminists” as dupes or enthusiastic allies is furthest advanced in Britain, but I consider trans issues and trans people from around the world, especially the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. I look at the law and proposals to change it, the response of churches, research on trans, and any issue of interest to trans people and our allies.

Commenters come and go, and sometimes the best part of the blog is the comments. My comment policy is “Don’t bore me”, and if people oppose trans rights, I will engage if they are courteous. I have less tolerance of those who abuse other commenters than those who abuse me, but often I let stupid or hateful comments through, as they show off the idiocy of the commenter. This is my space, but everyone is welcome here, especially if you can say something interesting.

I publish my photography here, and usually one painting a day, sometimes relevant to the post- obliquely or literally- and sometimes not. I like art. I am a Quaker, and publish things of interest to Quakers, most recently what God or the “inner light” might mean to an atheist.

I use my blog as a diary, as well as to communicate with whoever is listening. I have 2028 followers, but most of them rarely comment, or even look here. “Likes” are always welcome.

If you read all of it- I might be up to two million words by now, well over the length of In Search of Lost Time– you would know me perhaps as well as I know myself.

Falsehoods on detransition

A trans man commented on twitter that of 22,725 trans people operated on, only 62 regretted the operation, and only 22 of those “changed gender identity”- I think he means detransitioned. So I asked him where he got the information. He referred me to this article from PRS Global Open, the International Open Access Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Dr Sara Danker and others wrote to about 150 surgeons who had registered for the WPATH or USPATH, World or US Professional Association for Transgender Health, and asked them how many patients they had treated, and how many patients had regretted their transition or sought detransition care. 46 surgeons responded, and they had seen between them about 22,725 patients. 49% of respondents (I don’t know how it could be other than 50% or 48%) had never encountered such a patient. 12 surgeons had had one patient, the rest had encountered more, and the total was 62. 13 regretted chest surgery. 45 regretted genital surgery. 16 trans men, 37 trans women, and six nonbinary people sought detransition, a total of 59.

22 said their gender identity had changed. Eight said they were rejected by family and social support, and seven said they had difficulty in romantic relationships. Of the trans women, seven had vaginal stenosis (shrinking of the orifice, which is unsurprising. If you regret surgery you won’t dilate as much), two had rectovaginal fistulae- holes between their rectum and their vagina- and three had chronic genital pain. Two trans men had a urethral fistula and one had a urethral stricture.

If I detransitioned, I probably would not seek further genital surgery. Any surgery would have a risk of reducing sexual sensitivity even further. If I could afford it, I consider a hydraulic penis would be a poor substitute for the original. If I had a fistula, which sounds appalling, I would not go back to the surgeon who had originally performed the surgery, whether it was his fault or not.

To check the figures, I would want to know the incidence of recto-vaginal fistulae in post-operative trans women. If the incidence was greater than 0.0088% then I would not trust the incidences given here of regret or of other problems. I’m blogging. No sooner written than done: I googled “recto-vaginal fistula in transgender” and found this study, where 1082 trans women had 25 fistulae between them- that’s 2.3%.

I don’t trust the three in 20,000 figure for pain either. A trans psychotherapist, Iore M Dickey, says trans people experience higher rates of chronic pain. I would not go back to a plastic surgeon for pain relief.

I don’t trust this study. I have no idea how many trans people have transitioned or detransitioned. The Detransition Advocacy Network don’t give figures. Fantasist Walt Heyer, who has made a career of speaking and writing against transition after he reverted, claims “up to 20%” regret, but “up to” makes the “20%” meaningless. He writes of being “safe in the arms of Jesus”, to attract the batshit Evangelical market, and writes for The Federalist.

62 regretters out of 20,000 operations. Would that it were so. I regret my operation, and say so repeatedly, though I am not going to revert. I consider I had the operation because of social pressure, and it would be better for trans people to find a way of enjoying sex with the genitals they have rather than have them altered. I consider trans people are mostly glad of transition, and if some people regret, enough benefit that it should not be made difficult. It would be good to have the figures of those who benefit, but that short article is not it.

Hendrick ter Brugghen, ladies and gentlemen, follower of Caravaggio. The painting of fabric is exquisite, especially the clothes of the bagpiper, and the command of light and darkness follows the master well- in execution, but not in subject. He could not paint Judith like Caravaggio did, though there is foul sexual power here, and strong antisemitism.

Born that way

99% of the human genome is the same in everyone. Less than 1% differs. The genes that differ make us who we are, says Robert Plomin, our mental illnesses, our personalities and our mental abilities. He is a psychologist, who works on how genes help us understand who we are as individuals and predict what we will become.

Most of psychology is based on our environment, and how that affects us. Nurture was thought to make us who we are. Since the 1960s scientists conducting long term studies on separated twins have shown genes contribute hugely to our psychological differences. The most important environmental factors, such as families and schools, account for less than 5% of our difference in mental health, once we control for the impact of genetics. Every psychological trait shows some genetic influence. Even our experience of our parents and our schools is influenced by our genetic personalities.

Nurture is the wrong word: siblings raised in the same family are as different as siblings raised in different families. Plomin uses the word Environmentalism for the idea in psychology that the environment influences us. There are not individual “genes for” psychological traits, rather the weak effects of thousands of small differences aggregate to create powerful predictors of traits. You are 50% different to each parent and sibling. One genetic difference can cause cystic fibrosis, if it occurs in the CFTR gene inherited from each parent, but schizophrenia does not work in that way. Polygenic testing correlates thousands of genes with behavioural differences. The larger the study group, the more accurate the predictions- and more and more people are having their genomes mapped.

Eye colour is 95% heritable, that is, based on the genes we inherit. Breast cancer only 10%. Schizophrenia is 50%, and autism 70%. Reading disabilities, school achievement, verbal ability and the ability to remember faces are all 60% heritable. General intelligence including reasoning is 50% heritable.

Heritability refers to a particular population at a particular time. For example, heritability of body weight is greater in wealthy countries where there is greater access to fast food and high energy snacks, than in poorer countries. There is a difference between group and individual differences: the average height of northern European males has increased by more than 6″ in the last two hundred years, which is clearly due to changes in environment, but the differences in height between individuals is down to genetics.

Average differences between groups could be entirely environmental, perhaps as a result of discrimination.

What would this mean for the good society? Not necessarily eugenics and preventing some people from breeding: remember that our parents’ genes are mixed, not a predictable half from each, and many genes have tiny influences. To me, as a socialist, it would mean that as success in life was to a great extent genetic, society should mitigate against the inequalities it causes, by progressive taxation and a good safety net. It would mean that punishment of crime should be about containment and reform rather than deterrence or retribution. The moral deservingness someone had of their position in society, exalted or miserable, would be less, so it would be moral to mitigate the differences.

It would mean trans women are just as much real women as women with female genes, gonads and genitals. I resisted transition, and the idea that I was transsexual, for many years, but insofar as I made a choice to transition it was a choice between being who I am, or pretending to be male, which was making me miserable.

It would be wrong to deny the truth based on what it implied for humanity. Left wing policy should address the scientific facts. Denial is not an option. However Eric Turkheimer accused Plomin of describing effects as genetic which could just as well have been environmental. This is a dispute over which I am unqualified to judge.

I considered the kindle sample of Plomin’s book Blueprint and this Guardian interview.