My right to my feelings and perceptions

He told me that “Look mate, I don’t know if you’re a man or a woman” is not clearly objectionable. He explained that I have quite a deep voice. I am glad Tina reacted to this with incredulity: it helps me value my own view. If I go up to a man and say something unrelated to my trans status, and he responds with that, he is saying that I am a weirdo (his tone of voice emphasised that, but the phrase shows it). That is only relevant if he thinks it means I do not deserve his respect.

I tend to hope that line is generally seen as abusive. However, the bland denial has a purpose: to show that my response was objectionable. I am reduced to the plight of William Brown, saying “I was just statin’ a fact”- often, William is. If I proceed, I will face more denial of facts seeming self-evident to me. It is destabilising for me when someone asserts 2+2=5, but fortunately we do not have to agree on all facts, and no-one has a cage with a rat in it to hand.

In mindfulness practice, I develop self-respect. I am clearer about my judgment and my feelings. I have a right to both. This does not mean that I will not take another’s perspective into account, but that I will not merely submit to it. I will exercise my own judgment.

Whose feelings and perceptions matter? When we want a common understanding (which is often reassuring) how do we reach it?

She said, Is this going to have a unilateral application across all diversities? Should it be essential for everybody to have a self-respect which is impervious in order to be part of these meetings?

No, I said. I meant that I desire the equality of others. Now, I think it helps to know different perceptions may coexist. Those things I resent about H- I was thinking of saying, possibly she couldn’t have done anything better- I actually said, anything else. I don’t want to enforce my idea of “better”. Better for whom?

This is humility! Why does it appear arrogant to others?

-I have great strength as well as terrifying weakness.
-Of course: and also great weakness and terrifying strength.
-Terrifying for whom?
-Other people, who don’t expect you to have it? Human beings are a marvellous mess of paradoxes and dichotomies and conundrums and everything else-

The mercurial organismic self responds unpredictably because it responds to the actual situation it perceives. Its perceptions may be incomplete or inaccurate, but it continually reevaluates them. Unfortunately part of the situation is the self-concept’s need to believe certain things about itself. The self-concept is a great burden to the organismic self.

How can you be a square peg in a round hole? It’s difficult. It may be sustainable for a time but not permanently, eventually you revolt. Or you might manage it if you know what you’re doing, or perhaps if you appreciate the needs of the hole. It’s not wrong, it’s just different.

-At the moment you are strong. YM did you good. I am curious about what your isolation means for you?
-I refuse to surrender belief in possibilities.
-There are eejits in every gathering of human beings. I wish they were more clearly marked.
-Well, we just have to open our mouths, you know.

I get knocked down. But I get up again…

In the actual situation, I wrote:

I feel anxious about being late. The way I respond is self-soothing behaviour which actually makes me more late. When I start getting ready I will feel my anxiety and hurry. Or despondency (which I feel now) around not measuring up. This lessens my energy and motivation.

I want to meditate on feelings, but I have to go. I am putting down the burden of my feelings, and picking it up in a different way. How do I know what was going on in that situation? Well, it seems reasonable. I can’t know that the people making the decision knew what I knew. I thought they did, and it made them do what they did. But possibly no-one reported to them, and they didn’t ask.

I was stressed, then, and again arriving late, so that I even thought of giving a long elaborate explanation of my feelings and how they affect me, but decided that’s a big excuse to be saved for another time. My lateness, less than five minutes, is noticed and possibly hinted at but not commented on directly, and I don’t apologise for it.

Human relationships are difficult!

Trans and me

Transcending difficulties…

Trans is rarely the issue in any of my problems, but it adds difficulty to almost all of them.

Trans is simply who I am. To resent it is to wish I did not exist, and that someone entirely different was in my place. Trans is how some people are, so if it is despised and rejected that is a fault within society, and the resentment should be against the social norms producing that rejection, as with the social model of disability. I could just accept it rather than deconstructing it. I am writing this in part because the last time I tried it I wrote a lot about my sexuality.

Or, trans is an interaction of who I am with society. To state what I think now about being trans, and of trans as a thing, I have to consider all of society and all of myself, and in particular my sexuality, my desires and how they change over time, our gendered society from a feminist perspective of patriarchy and sexism and also what it means to be a man, my other character and circumstances. Trans is the most important thing in my life, still. I have to distinguish being trans from transitioning, or I might imagine that transition has caused all my problems. Given that I am trans, transition may be the best thing I could have done.

There is no trans community, I said, and she agreed. She was at a conference of mostly trans people, who were suddenly plunged into a “more woke than thou, more oppressed than thou” fight. The speaker talked of “transgenders” meaning “trans women” and someone said, we don’t use that language, it is considered offensive. Then others piled on her in righteous indignation: in different cultures language is different, you should accept her language, this is post-colonial oppression. The lecture hall is an example of patriarchal pedagogy. I am more oppressed than you because I am autistic and bipolar as well as trans. There were calls to ignore the programme of papers and panel discussion and thrash this debate out there and then (which would be impossible). People were talking while others were giving papers. Leave the Hall! It’s totally disrespectful!

I like to think I can see when someone means to be offensive. When they just don’t understand, seeing whether they are trying hard enough to is more difficult: that depends on how patient I am feeling at the time. And today I cycled past a group of teenagers and one of them said, in a tone to project to the Gods, “Is that a man or a woman?” How?

We must try to avoid playing the white saviour, I said. I note I find it hard to see my good qualities. Am I taking an interest in white privilege as an analogue to my own issues, which I don’t name directly? Of course that’s part of it. Yet there is good, in what I say about white privilege and in standing up against my own oppression. I would have sought, at that conference, to find calm and a common way forward. Or shut up because I couldn’t make it better. I hope, I think-

You said something about trans women being like teenage girls. And, that’s just one thread in a whole tapestry of challenges and struggles. It’s not wholly accurate but it is a convenient way of seeing it, for ordinary people but for trans people too. It’s humanity under a microscope. We are scrutinised and analysed and described. It’s like that for all human diversity, our differences pored over, judged. But is not everyone like a teenage girl? We all have emotions. It’s just people don’t tolerate some people’s expression of them.

I got very emotional, years ago. For example someone said to me, how’s the jobsearch going? And I burst into tears. I don’t deflect the question, turn it into small talk, mutter things to make my position look better than it is, or take it as an opportunity to explain my woes, I just burst into tears.

I was on the phone, and I wanted to say, “I am completely isolated”. I wanted to explain. And this distresses me, and I could feel the distress rising. Saying it apparently almost calmly, rather than bursting out with it, involved

thinking the words that I wanted to say
Feeling what that felt like.
Savouring it, digesting it
and then saying the words.

This is ongoing practice. It was something I knew, rather than an idea new to me, so being present, mindfulness as a means of regulating emotion, worked. I am making progress. Suppressing the feeling does not work, it just bursts out.

What are the background emotions? Perplexity and resentment are two of my ground bass. Letting them show isn’t a good thing, so I was taught not to admit them to myself. I wonder how many people feel that way. It’s not- a trans woman thing- it’s how I am, and how perhaps many people are. It is a lot to digest, particularly under the microscope. This is who I am, so that has to be acceptable, at least to me. I am getting there.

Trans men and male privilege

Trans men gain male privilege. I heard of one last weekend, amazed that they were treated with so much more respect, just because of the change of presentation. People see “Man”, and behave differently. It is not entirely gain, of course.

What gains are there? His ideas are taken more seriously, and he is interrupted less. His achievements may be publicly recognised. I kept noticing that if guys wanted an assignment they’d just ask for it. If they wanted a raise or a promotion they’d ask for it. This was a foreign concept to me. As a woman, I never felt that it was polite to do that or that I had the power to do that. But after seeing it happen all around me I decided that if I felt I deserved something I was going to ask for it too. By doing that, I took control of my career. It was very empowering.

People ask if being a man made me more successful in my career. My answer is yes — but not for the reason you might think. As a man, I was finally comfortable in my own skin and that made me more confident. At work I noticed I was more direct: getting to the point, not apologizing before I said anything or tiptoeing around and trying to be delicate like I used to do. In meetings, I was more outspoken. I stopped posing my thoughts as questions. I’d say what I meant and what I wanted to happen instead of dropping hints and hoping people would read between the lines and pick up on what I really wanted. I was no longer shy about stating my opinions or defending my work. When I gave presentations I was brighter, funnier, more engaging. Not because I was a man. Because I was happy.

I’m not sure what to make of that. Men are more outspoken. You drop hints and state thoughts as questions because you fear they will not be accepted. I tend to think it’s a question of power- of privilege. Women can be confident, and still get interrupted.

People now assume I have logic, advice and seniority. They look at me and assume I know the answer, even when I don’t. Well, sometimes we just need an answer, so we can move on. There are a multitude of good enough answers. People also engage with his questions, rather than brushing him off.

Men in that article also talk about a loss of sisterly solidarity. So, women would look at each other sympathetically when a man said something rude about one of them, but now he has to suck it up. Men and women held doors open for him presenting female, but stopped. One found he listened less, and put that down to T. The Black man had had reasonable interactions with the police presenting female, but now was routinely pulled over and humiliated- “Do you have a weapon? Are you on probation?”

Another trans man challenges male sexism, and tells men he mentors, right now, you’re comfortable — but you have no insight into anyone because you’ve never had to be uncomfortable. Several say they feel more empathy, seeing things from both sexes’ point of view.

Here’s a brilliant loss and gain quote: They gained professional respect, but lost intimacy. They exuded authority, but caused fear. The female author continues to summarise: Many trans men I spoke with said they had no idea how rough women at work had it until they transitioned. As soon as they came out as men, they found their missteps minimized and their successes amplified. Often, they say, their words carried more weight: They seemed to gain authority and professional respect overnight. They also saw confirmation of the sexist attitudes they had long suspected: They recalled hearing female colleagues belittled by male bosses, or female job applicants called names… walking home after dark felt easier, casually talking to babies, strangers and friends felt harder. The Black trans man also finds the police far more scary.

Trans men notice psychological changes on T. They feel more sure of themselves, Time says. That could just be fitting their own skin better, as transitioned trans people. It could be the T. Things are more black and white, says one. Another feels freed from the expectations placed on women: he no longer feels he has to smile all the time, and be pleasant.

I need to burrow down into this. Two of the three articles I looked at are on WaPo and Time, large professional sites with professional female journalists creating a story- allowing the trans men to speak for themselves up to a point. To really understand I would have to look through blogs, some of which might state different experiences when presenting male without explaining them with the concept of “male privilege”. I would be grateful to receive any comments, or suggestions of further reading.

“Cis privilege” and safe spaces

Do we regard women’s need for safe spaces as privilege?

Well, I don’t. Yet “cis privilege” exists. I try to create understanding and see from more than one perspective. I want to get beyond trump cards, the killer argument which makes one side win, or Oppression Olympics, where we compete to show our suffering is greater. I would welcome a response which might find some grain of value in this, and build on it.

I do not believe in “female privilege”, as Patriarchy favours men. The need for women’s safe spaces comes from Patriarchy. But Kyriarchy- rule by lords, or the privileged, over others, is a useful word: people of colour, queers and others are also oppressed. There are intersections.

Trans people are in all sorts of cultures around the world, over millennia. Trans people are those who think they are, want to be, or want to be seen as, the other sex. The word transsexual was coined to fit that, but it does not quite fit. Some thought that the word increases pressure on us to have surgery which some of us may not want, and some say that we fit a cultural perception of the other sex so “transgender” fits better. Then some object to being seen as culturally a woman: if by genes, gonads and genitals you are a woman, you are a woman no matter what the culture thinks.

Part of privilege is not having to explain yourself. We’re everywhere, and we always have been throughout recorded history. Still we have to explain ourselves. We have to explain ourselves to ourselves, to pluck up the courage to transition, and we have to explain ourselves to others, to justify doing what we want to do.

Being a Quaker, I value experience above belief. I observe that dressing in clothes deemed fit for women by my culture and a feminine name were what I wanted more than anything else in the world. This came after a period when I tried to make a man of myself, going for long walks with a rucksack filled with bricks, or joining the territorial army. Lots of trans women do. I now think of that as suffering social pressure to conform as a “normal” male.

Part of privilege is having spaces where you fit. At Yearly Meeting I noticed a queue outside the “All-gender” toilet, and wondered if I were female enough to use the women’s. I decided I was. I have only noticed all-gender toilets in the past year or so, and might be delaying a wheelchair-user’s use.

The need for safe spaces is the opposite of privilege. The common space is made for men- so when there is a sex murderer on the loose, the police tell women not to go out alone, rather than impose a curfew on men. And, the common space is not made for trans folk either. We don’t have our discrete spaces, we are lumped in together.

So we scrap amongst ourselves. I experience a great deal of sympathy from women. Some are proud to be allies, speaking up for trans people. Many say “trans women are women” which as a factual statement might be disputed, and its implications taken to the extreme are absurd. Non-trans women are women too. But it’s a statement of intent about practical arrangements, about how we treat people.

Some women are upset and angry to see a trans woman in women’s space. Some women are creeped out by it, and some collect stories of actual trans woman sex offenders, as if to tar us all with the same brush, but not all women are.

I tend to feel that temporary solidarity from women who are repulsed by a trans woman in a woman’s loo would advance feminist concerns and subvert conservative gender roles (conservatives hate trans women because we subvert gender roles by transitioning, even if we reinforce gender roles in our presentation after transition). So I feel recognising some trans disprivilege has value, even if you don’t feel privileged over us yourself.

If “trans” refers to one who crosses over, “cis” means one on the same side. I want a word which means “non-trans” without clearly excluding trans women from the class of “women”. Now, we have two sets of terms, one prioritising genes gonads and genitals as a way of moulding how people should react, and the other emphasising universal (though rare) human actions. Could we have one language?

Trans with the Quakers

Someone trans was near to tears, and I wondered, have they started on oestrogen?

Trans people are accepted by Quakers except when we’re not. We are not always understood. Waiting for the morning session, a woman asked me about her friend. “She- I can call her ‘she’ because she has gone back- was going to have surgery but found a partner, and decided not to,” she told me. She wanted to ask me, as a Friend, rather than ask the woman herself. She asked, “How does that work?”

Um. If we say “Trans men are men”, and I am glad people say that, what happens if they detransition? I said, I have heard of several people doing that. It’s because there are two questions: “Am I trans?” “Will I be happier if I transition?” The answers can be Yes; No. I did not say that when someone says I wanted it so much that I could do nothing else until I did it that they are not telling the truth. Someone told me that last night, and it’s how I felt.

I don’t really mind her asking, but some would. It should not be our job to explain, over and over, simple things about trans with all these books and websites published. I told her that everyone has fairly superficial relations with a lot of people, who might see them or might neither see nor accept them, and everyone needs a few close relationships with people who accept them unconditionally. If others accept me as I am, and I can be myself without masks, what does it matter what I am wearing?

She also told me her friend had been amazed at male privilege. When she started being seen as male, she was just treated with more respect, and as a teenager she could not understand it. Why boys but not girls?

I was delighted to meet Ruth. I loved her “Be more Becky” badge. I don’t think I have talked to her since I was raging at her nine years ago. “Will you be worried about it in ten years’ time?” is always a good question: after I heard she was supporting H, I had hoped to see her. “H wants a win,” she said, which some people might object to; but well, after all this time why begrudge H a win? It would be a win for everyone. H was so clever, she told me, she would see where we should be immediately (she mimes cogwheels spinning inside her head). Other people would get there very slowly (mimes cogs creaking round) and Ruth would want H to realise: give them time to get it. She was too impatient.

We have hugged. We have expressed our sorrow for the falling out, and our forgiveness for each other, and Ruth asks me if, on the hormones, it might be right to say that- trans women are like teenage girls?

Oh fuckyeah.

It can be awful. Women learn to live with their feelings, if unlucky suppress them but if lucky just feel them and not give an outward sign, because outward signs of emotionality in women are a weapon to be used against them. And I never have. It’s like being a teenage girl.

Quaker Gender and Sexuality Diversity Community had a meeting, and the gender-critical feminists turned up mob-handed. One read out an Area Meeting Minute pledging support for “single sex services as permitted by legislation”, and I saw that as unfriendly to trans people. They wanted to challenge our speaker from Stonewall. And yet still they came out with the trope about being frightened to speak, about how women and one or two men said how brave they were to speak out. It’s as if their allies on the hard Right don’t count. They know Lefties will mostly disagree with them. Most there support trans rights.

To me, the Left opposition to trans rights is a crying shame, because they give aid to the Patriarchy wanting to suppress trans, and prevent trans people moving on. I am sure surgery, and probably taking hormones, is bad for us. Without all this hostility, trans people could find new ways of being.

What about Quakers? Quakers are supportive, up to a point. We invited a non-binary person to speak, and we value trans women as a concept. And yet I know four of us who have got into trouble with our Meetings, or been tolerated, not for long periods been asked to do any of the work of the meeting, or walked away in dudgeon. The concept of a trans woman is perfectly acceptable. No-one is going to try to dead-name us, and they talk of how brave we are to transition. But when we behave like trans women- or like teenage girls- we get into trouble. Junior Yearly Meeting minuted, “Are we presenting ourselves openly?” It’s not good to lose my temper, but being emotional is being myself.

I feel that is a shame. My depth of feeling, whether it is induced by artificial hormones or not, is a gift, and my ongoing struggle to come to terms with it is a valuable spiritual journey. I am mortified and abashed that I lost my temper that time. Given the volcanic pressures inside, I feel I do quite well to express them as little as I do. If I could be accepted as me, rather than only if I appear as a cardboard Quaker, softly and evenly spoken, never rocking the boat, Quakers would be enriched. The fear-filled reaction of “Oh my God what is she doing now?” does no-one any good.

Toughening up

When he was a child, his father used to drive out from Denver into the Arapaho National Forest, to camp and hike with him. He was ten when he first walked 25 miles in one day. I could not match that, growing up in Argyll. I walked up to the trig point now and then, I cycled to Tarbert by Kilberry and back by Loch Fyne, but nothing like this. Once, they were out camping in snow, and afterwards a park ranger told them other hikers had said they feared for him.

The sympathetic response would be to ask what he thought. Instead I rolled my eyes, and said, “What would they know?”

He’s told me about these outdoor exploits before, and I realise I have no idea how he felt about them. In comes the self-criticism: you don’t see other people at all! You don’t care about their feelings! That isn’t true, though. Hmm. Well, how do you get from Denver, Colorado, US, to being a CPN in Swanston? Was he running away from his family? He has told me about going back to see them. Some of the conversations can be a bit difficult. They were so delighted when he got together with a woman, but now he’s with a man again, no longer that Bi passing as Straight thing.

This sweet, gentle man…

It is not just me not seeing others, or imagining they think exactly as I do. I pause to think about this. My own family placed a high value on self-improvement and on practical outdoors pursuits. Dad and I walked together over the hills. We fantasised rather than planned going up Suilven as he had done when at University, but we went through Glen Affric. I so wanted to make a man of myself.

Even though I know my concept of manliness did not fit me, and harmed me a lot; even though I have read others’ experiences, of fathers trying to stop their sons being “sissies”, though I know self-acceptance is essential for health, and others’ goals can cripple people; it still feels so utterly natural to me. What would they know, I wondered. Had he been Scots, I might have suggested that these carpers, or decent people seeking to protect him, were English.

Toughening the child up is just so normal, even for me, even now. So is family loyalty: I might criticise mine, but would defend them against anyone. Thinking about that is my answer to my self-criticism. Why don’t you see other people? Without thought, that question just leads to misery. Because I am thoughtless, stupid, only concerned with my own worries, obviously. It crushes me. With thought, I can forgive myself; and, considering what might be behind my unthinking response, I may be able to achieve change which the harsh self-criticism blocks.

Why am I so unfeeling to others? Because I am like that to myself. In my own mind I sometimes reach 49%, when the pass mark is fifty. I rolled my eyes, and have no recollection of his response to that. I did not get the impression that this had bothered him, but perhaps he was hiding that. Never cry! He might have opened up if I had sympathised, or he might have brushed it off (as I brushed off his consolations) but the topic of conversation changed.

Human beings are complex. A single word like “soft” cannot encapsulate us, but often is used to define us. With the Euro election and the Faragist hate campaign, I am depressed and I am talking depressingly. I want to encourage people and don’t.

-Why do you think you might not see people?
I demand too much of myself, so therefore I demand too much of others.
-It surprises me you are analysing this, intellectually, so much. Why is it all in your head?
Well, the heart is a muscle. The limbic system is in the head. And, my own emotional judgment of myself is so much on one note.

Oh my god
I just blanked him!
I was so unsympathetic
How shit is that?

I recognise I have mirror neurons, and I mirror people, for example picking up my glass at the same time as my companion does.

-You value your intellect so much, but your emotional intelligence does not always fire off so well. You have mastered, harnessed your intellect, you’ve played with it, you can ride it, you can get lost in it, you can dive into it.

-Your emotional self sometimes storms through thunderously. It is magnificent, quite spectacular and evidently as deep and prolific as your intellect. But you don’t harness it. It separates you from people, you know it does.

It is like the sea. If I try to stand erect on it, I will flounder dreadfully
but if I try to swim
that might work-

Transitioning as a child

When child H, then aged three, was brought to school dressed as a girl, the school referred the family to social services, alleging that the foster carers may be fabricating and inducing mental illness in the children. Eighteen months later in June 2017, when H began attending, the school requested that she wear a boy’s uniform, but H and the foster parents did not comply. In July 2018, social services started care proceedings, and the social worker Lisa North alleged the foster carers had a “preoccupation with an encouragement of gender dysphoria”. On 9 May 2019 the judge completely exonerated the foster carers, praising them as child-focused.

Social Services, seeking evidence for care proceedings, commissioned a consultant paediatrician, Dr Gupta, to consider the account of events they had prepared and assess whether there was “factitious or induced illness”. That is a defined category, with a developed theory of what it is and how it may be established. The theory gives twelve factors establishing FII, all of which Dr Gupta said applied in this case, even though she did not see the children. Social Services then issued care proceedings, alleging that the foster parents have manipulated children’s gender and diagnosis of additional needs, which is considered the highest division of emotional abuse. The children remained at home while the courts obtained expert evidence.

The foster parents had three of their own children, and were caring for five more. Though not related by birth or adoption, the children saw themselves as brothers and sisters. One of them, R, aged 12, had been referred to the Tavistock gender identity clinic and was living transitioned to female. R had ADHD and autistic spectrum disorder. H and C, H’s six year old brother, had both suffered abuse and neglect from their birth parents. C had had several injuries in falls while in foster care.

A psychiatrist, Dr Hellin, assessed the foster parents and found the mother had no sign of personality disorder or mental illness, but that her identity and sense of self and of competence is very much based on her role as a mother carer and the proceedings have attacked this making her feel very insecure vulnerable, self-doubting and frightened. The father was psychologically resilient, and involved with the family, and there was no sign of FII. Both were “reflective” about the issue of gender dysphoria.

Another consultant paediatrician, Dr Ward, considered the children’s medical records though did not see the children herself. She concluded that R, the elder trans girl, and another child had no inappropriate referrals or medical treatment but that H’s brother C had had accidents because of inadequate supervision.

Of H, she used male pronouns, saying H required consistent, positive and nurturing care because of trauma and physical abuse by the birth parents. The foster-carers were over-anxious about H’s health and development, and sought second opinions. With hindsight, the investigations were not clinically indicated, and there is evidence that the foster-carers had given misleading information when they suspected cerebral palsy: if the court agreed, that would be fabrication, not merely the behaviour of an anxious parent.

H had not yet been referred about gender dysphoria. Dr Ward wrote, a significant proportion of pre-pubertal children who display differences in gender identity revert to their biological gender in adolescence. Failure to seek medical support and opinion leaves H at significant risk of emotional harm as a result of being presented in school as a girl. Failure to seek medical attention in relation to this problem represents neglect of H’s emotional and physical well-being. However the gender specialist who reported on H disagreed.

Dr Ward thought K, a girl aged 4, who had also been abused by her birth parents, was normal and healthy, but that the foster-carers interpreted her response to the abuse as mental health problems, and there was “concern” that they overinterpreted, exaggerated or misreported behaviour, which led to referrals. The foster-carers seemed focussed on potential diagnoses, which might lead to K falsely perceiving herself as disabled.

I will quote the judge’s summary of Dr Pasterski’s introduction in full.

“Dr Pasterski is a chartered psychologist and gender specialist with 23 years of experience in conducting gender identity assessments in children and adolescents. In her report she identifies that there have been recent changes to the diagnostic criteria for gender dysphoria and that research on mental health and transgender children have shed light onto critical historical misunderstandings related to clinical presentation in gender dysphoria. Firstly, that children who present with gender dysphoria are likely to desist in their cross-gender identification and secondly that gender dysphoria is inherently associated with high rates of comorbid psychopathology. She notes both have been shown to be false. She identifies that these misunderstandings arise from two particular factors. Firstly earlier studies which showed that up to 80% of children desist in gender dysphoria included children who presented with gender incongruent behaviour but did not necessarily state the wish to be or that they were the other gender. Thus children displaying gender variance may have been wrongly diagnosed with gender dysphoria. As a result of this treatment protocols previously incorporated a watch and wait approach which had prevented truly dysphoric children from transitioning which had likely resulted in increased rates of depression and anxiety. As Dr Pasterski puts it ‘Put simply, many who have shown to desist were likely not dysphoric and psychopathology in those who persisted was likely due to forbidden expression of their true gender identity.’ Current guidance suggests that supporting a child who clearly and consistently states that they wish to be the other gender in their preferred gender role is associated with improved mental health and well-being.”

Dr Pasterski thought gender dysphoria could not be fabricated or induced. R was content to present as a girl, consistent with a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. It was appropriate to support her in her authentic, preferred presentation.

H appeared to be a content, alert and socially engaged little girl. She identified herself as a girl. It was right to allow her to present as she wished, even though she had not seen the GIC: there is a risk of harm from unnecessary gender related investigations (para 59 iii). The children were free to be themselves, and removing them from their loving, settled and engaging home would harm them.

The independent social worker reported that the children were well-cared for, that the foster parents worked well with social services and health professionals, following professional advice. The children were fully integrated as a family. She thought the foster-mother was closed to the possibility of H or R reverting to male, and that early transition made it more difficult to explore gender identity- that is, she disagreed with the gender specialist.

The local authority requested permission to withdraw the court proceedings. The foster-carers objected that simply withdrawing proceedings, without the court finding the facts of the case, might lead to an unjustified cloud of suspicion over them.

The law says that where it is clear that there is no basis for care proceedings the court should allow social services to withdraw their application, but where it is arguable that there should be an order about care the court should find the facts. Court proceedings create a cloud of uncertainty, intrusion and stress, bad for the welfare of the children.

The judge concluded that it was so obvious that care orders were inappropriate that no further factual findings were necessary, and in the interests of the children the court proceedings should end. This is a complete exoneration of the foster parents. To the extent that there may be individual examples which either do amount to, or could be construed as, examples of inaccurate reporting, or over medicalisation or lack of supervision they are isolated outliers in comparison to an otherwise overwhelming evidential panorama of appropriate parenting. The children are prospering, and the foster carers are good, child-focused parents.

He decides, at para 75 iii, that concerns about the early social transition of the two trans girls were “compellingly rebutted” by Dr Pasterski. Dr Ward only gave isolated examples of over-medicalisation, but the “overwhelming weight” of evidence shows the foster carers are good parents.

So this is an example of trans girls properly cared for by loving foster carers, having to undergo court proceedings because of social workers and school staff taking concerns about the trans girls’ transitions too far, though at para 81 the judge could not condemn them: they were merely less well informed than Dr Pasterski. The judge says “The concerns were comprehensively dispelled”.

The Daily Mail’s headline about this is grudging, giving undue prominence to the social workers’ concerns: Judge backs parents who allowed their four-year-old son to live as a girl and sent him to school in a girl’s uniform – despite social workers accusing them of ‘actively encouraging’ their child’s transgender identity. Note the misgendering.

The judgment is available here.

Being hormonal

I walk along the long, crowded hospital corridor. I must not cry! My face twists in the tension of wanting to burst into tears, sobbing, and needing to appear calm and normal among these strangers. With an effort I control myself, and then my face twists again.

In case you are worried, my tears were not prompted by a diagnosis, but by being late for a meeting. I will look a fool! I am a fool! I will be rebuffed, and fail again! Wanting to cry makes it worse- what weakling would cry, at that?

I got to the hospital with a bit of time to spare, but there is an issue- I want a building called Elm Holm at the far end, but there is only Elm Leigh. I ask for Elm Leigh- I must have been mistaken- and find it is a cardiac care ward. If I needed cardiac care I could not have cycled here from Marsby. The nurse at the desk tells me to go back to reception. Again I make a mistake: I want O-H-, but only remember the old-fashioned, less accurate name for it, O-T-. I ask for OT, and after my confusion is resolved I am sent to OH. Now I am late, and more upset.

I get to OH, and say I have an appointment with Jill. I don’t know her surname, and they don’t have a staff member called Jill, or a note of such an appointment. In the small office, there is a man who stares at me incomprehendingly and a motherly woman about my age who sympathises and tries to get to the bottom of it. With her kindness I can no longer restrain my tears, but I still can’t explain or say anything sensible because I am trying to hold them back. She sends him off for a glass of water.

I have come to the wrong hospital. There’s another the other side of this small town. Who would have thought it? Actually, I check the note I made of the appointment, and I had been told to go to St Origen’s; but googling this morning I only looked for K- hospital, so found the Infirmary. She phones them, makes sure my appointment is there, and agrees that if I can get there by 12.30, fifty minutes late, they will see me.

I feel the need to explain, and choose my words carefully. I want to appear calm, but cannot because “you have been so kind”. Actually I resent her kindness. Cruelty and disdain might shame me into some semblance of normality. My resentment spills out, and I tell her that I had thought better of saying she had “made a fuss”, and as I anticipated she started to protest. You’re not the first person to confuse the two hospitals, and you won’t be the last. Anyone can make a mistake, she tells me. I express my real gratitude for her help, and curse myself that I had needed it.

I cycle across town, and am calm enough in this meeting to say the right things and not think of crying. What I say is so close to reality! This woman, too, is friendly, and I get the result I want, very glad to appear calm, grateful for her flexibility in seeing me so late. You cycled! You were quick!

Next day, I want to tell this story to my gentle Friend, and find myself tearing up again. I should be able to say this without tears, I admonish myself sternly. The more I try to hold them back, the more I have to gasp out my story between sobs.

Women learn in their teens that appearing “emotional” will decrease further the respect people have for them. Never cry! warns Siri Hustvedt. Men will take advantage. In mixed company you will be derided, perhaps with oleaginous sympathy. (I firmly believe this- it happens, mostly, I was lucky that one time.) I disagree with most things my feminist hero Germaine Greer has to say about trans, but agree that being a woman is “not all cake and jam”. The misery at feeling a fool, and feeling I will fail,

Again!

is too much for me, I cannot just accept it (though I know I must). So it forces me to acknowledge it, by making me cry. I can’t hold back the tears. Learning to accept the depth of feeling and live with it is so hard. I don’t know if I felt this deeply before transition and somehow managed to suppress it, but the change from T to oestradiol can’t have helped. It is something to consider if you are about to transition. Suppressing T and taking Œ involves difficulty as well as blessing.

The trans “debate” II

There is no such thing as “gender”. A man cannot become a woman.
But trans women exist, and for thousands of years in all kinds of cultures apparent men have expressed ourselves as women.

Women need women’s space.
Trans women are integrated into women’s space, and should not be excluded.
(This one can become Oppression Olympics, where we compete to show which group is more oppressed.)

I need space in society. I need to go to the loo.
Use men’s spaces.

If women cannot define “woman”, if “woman” includes some men, then there is no basis for women’s rights.
Trans women are an anomaly, 0.1% of women, not worth all this energy.

There is a proposed new law which will end women’s rights.
There has been no movement on gender recognition reform since it was announced two years ago, and diagnosis is based on self-ID anyway.

There is little trans debate. There are opposing views, which complement each other like the ones above. On social media people who agree gather, and hone their arguments on each side, so that someone might speak for an hour on the first point, talking of brain plasticity and citing Cordelia Fine. But another might speak for an hour in refutation, on gender in culture. We talk past each other.

Then there are particular issues.

Even if testosterone levels are now women’s, male puberty and a male skeleton gives advantages in sport.
Skeletons change just as muscle-strength changes, in hormonal transition.

Then there are the appeals to the undecided middle. So “Self-ID” must be presented as a great change, allowing a sudden flood of men in women’s spaces, rather than a change to the births deaths and marriages registration system, having little practical effect even for trans people. Often there is some attempt to affect sympathy with “truly transsexual” people, and distinguish them from “predatory men”. In the private spaces, the definition of truly transsexual gets more and more restricted, as the interested party is drawn in, learns more of the “argument”, shares the anger.

Ah, the anger. Stories are shared. Tara Wolf’s assault on Maria McLachlan has done terrible damage to trans rights, cited again and again as a step on the way to radicalisation. Then there is self-righteousness: they see “women meeting to discuss women’s rights”, I see a crowd whipped up into communal anger, derision, fear, disgust against me.

You’re not one of us. So much of feminism is bringing Patriarchy to the attention of women, how society is organised in the interests of men. It just seems normal, it’s what you’re used to, then you grow to see how oppressive it is. This creation of an out-group is not subject to the usual objection, as it is punching up rather than punching down. I agree, actually. A lot of that makes sense to me. I would just like to be accepted in the group. I am scarred by male gender stereotypes too.

(Do I need to explain “punching up”? Have you read the same shared articles as me? Do you frequent the same social media spaces? The language can increase our intimacy through what we share, or alienate. What about “work wife”?)

Possibly you care so much about this because of your own hurt. Others are less hurt or have other concerns.

Debate, the construction of apparently logical-rational arguments from oft-repeated stock phrases, will not bring us together. Can we come together face to face, to see and hear each other?

What do you want?
What do you feel?
What hurts you, inspires you?
What do we share?

Because we share about this on line, typing onto screens, it becomes an intellectual debate. However it is a conflict. Trans women are in women’s spaces, and some women object. Should the women who object be able to exclude the trans women, or not? Where do your sympathies lie?

Any thoughts on how two sides might be brought together and the heat lessened- please share. How to break through the carapace of intellectual argument and Shield of Righteousness, to the hurt within? Can we find common interests?

how strange these mortals be!

How many of your characteristics do you need to consider before you become unique? I may not be the only left-handed aphantasic Scottish trans woman, but I am probably the only left-handed aphantasic Scottish trans woman entitled to join Mensa. It’s a trick question, of course; we are all unique, if only for our fingerprints.

People’s experience of the world can differ greatly. An effect I have on some people is that they imagine I think I am better than them. They project their insecurity onto me. I don’t, actually. I was deeply ashamed that I, being highly intelligent, empathetic, moderately well-read and interested in everything human should have such a poor CV. I have got over the shame, but I remain humble because of where I am in life (I think- subject to what I may write about consciousness). Why could I not do better?

This surprised even Tina. “It must be hard thinking you could do the job better,” she said. Actually, no. I don’t think that. But I find joy in these characteristics. I value having these gifts. That is how I value myself. It has been hard to value myself.

Being bright is supposed to make life easier, but it hasn’t, for me. Other things affect my life. I am socially awkward. Everything is multifactorial. She said, “We tend to be very reductionist, and think being bright makes things easier, having wealth makes things easier, and therefore that person does not have the difficulties I have.” We’re all doing our best under difficult circumstances.

-You find it hard to communicate without seeming arrogant and presumptuous. It’s not arrogance: you are saying, “This is the bit of life I can do! I’d like to share it, please.” I said I could go to a cocktail party or a dinner party and hold my own, but that is not quite true: I could talk on the intellectual level but not about social or life-issues, and not if it became a conflict, and I would need to borrow appropriate clothes. And I might be nervous.

I got into a conflict, and I had not anticipated it. I think she thought I was trying to put her down, put her in her place. In her situation she may get arrogant people trying to do that. I was just sharing something that had interested me- I have known of aphantasia since my teens, when I found that this phrase “the mind’s eye” was not just a weird metaphor but most people’s actual experience, but I had only just learned the word for it, only just heard others talking of experiences just like mine. I was excited about it. So the conflict came at me, out of the blue. And now I am not sure I could even learn from it. It’s just one of those bad things that happen occasionally, I could not imagine it part of a class and avoid similar problems. I sympathise with her.

I trained as a lawyer, and am Scots, and so write and talk with that flavour, with these twists of lemon in the cocktail.

I wonder how my sincerity comes over. I do not like to see the world as a battle, and some people do. And some people are ignored, brushed off, not seen or heard. It is hard to imagine other people’s experience is different from your own. We try to hide our foibles and vulnerabilities, and in doing so make ourselves more vulnerable.