If you share your pain, you risk three possible responses:

  • So what?
  • Deal with it.
  • Prove it.

And, there are other possibilities:

  • You gain sympathy, which is different from pity
  • Others agree there is injustice here, and they will work with you against it.

I feel better after sharing my pain if someone says, yes, that should not have happened. You were wronged. That was a mistake. They should have known better.

Eventually I deal with my pain. I suffered sustained bullying at work for six months. I can describe it mostly unemotionally now. It stripped me of self-confidence at the time. It was more than ten years ago. Yet the first three responses leave me vulnerable. If I describe what happened, I want my hearer to accept what I say. Challenges reopen the wounds.

My poet friend said that when she had processed pain, she could use it in her art. She can go on stage and express the feelings which the incidents evoked, and communicate them to an audience- an authentic theatrical experience, a whole room feeling with the performer- because she has processed it. She cannot until she has processed it. The healed pain can be catharsis for the hearers. We feel with the performer, and deal with our own pain, or, we feel with her and gain empathy, gain a broader understanding of what it is to be human.

Yesterday I knelt to meditate, and thought, what am I feeling? Hope. I immediately started second-guessing it. It is after playing Metamorphosis III, which rather than being bright and beautiful is the blaring bombast of the Dictator. Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t; maybe it is an arrangement of chords which can be interpreted as you wish, the harsh sun on the desert or a unique move not in other music. I felt hope, and possibly it was authentic.

Yet sharing pain, at whatever risk, can bring together opposite sides. We see the other as human. There they are, doing their best under difficult circumstances, and our heart goes out to them.

Amos Oz was a child in Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate, and he was a child hurling stones at soldiers with rifles. It was, he said, the first Intifada, which translates as “shaking off”. Now children throw stones at soldiers, and their oppression is his oppression.

I want to make the thing that hurt me impossible, so that I will never again feel that hurt. It cannot be done. As long as we are alive we may be crushed. I want to heal your hurt without sublimating myself.

Dammit. Put down the shield of your rage! The shell crushes and isolates even as it protects.

Are you safe?

I looked down into Cerys’s face as she breastfed. My mirror neurons got to work: the profound contentment and relaxation I read there flooded me for a moment. Her happiness was my happiness. Then I looked away, and the trance lifted. I was back in the room, bewildered by the strength of that feeling.

It was lovely to meet C, who reads Sartre plays in French “for fun” and apologised for not reading The Master and Margarita in the original, who enthused about studying different choreographers and gave me time for my own enthusiasm. And F, who works with people long term sick, trying to get them moving. Not back into work, they don’t manage that often, but into training. She mentioned training for fork-lift truck driving, which made me think of a sudden flood of unemployed fork-lift drivers, and for unskilled labouring, training called “basic work skills” telling people they had to get to work on time. It was a pity that she was sitting listening rather than telling more. Two women, making their way and doing worthwhile things.

Privilege is believing everything will turn out all right. The world as it is fits you. If nothing bad can happen, then you can take risks. If you are not worried about imminent threats, you can make long-term plans. That sense of safety is empowering. If you trust your society, you move freely in it.

I am blogging again, thinking as I write, seeking to unite that sense of safety and the feeling it evokes with a rational sense of the actual threats, and with tolerance or campaigning against wrong, with particular reference to trans issues as always. Consider my friend Fiona, who cross-dressed habitually and often, and went out dressed female. I thought she looked ridiculous, but she thought she passed well: once, a teenager called out “Wig!” which led her to reason that had she read her as trans, she would have called that out too. Once she spent a week cross-dressed, and was utterly sick of it by the end.

I don’t think she would do much harm in a women’s loo. She would go in, use it, wash and dry her hands, leave, like most people. She is not protected by the Equality Act, she shouldn’t be in a women’s refuge or a women’s prison, but she does no harm. Or a gender non-conforming or gender non-binary person, AMAB, not trying to pass as a woman, wants to try on a top in the women’s section so goes into the womens’ changing rooms. Well, there are individual cubicles, so they won’t see anyone undressed and nor will others see them. Great Hoo-ha in press. “I tend to use whichever changing room is nearer,” said my AFAB friend.

Three pairs. Do you object to Fiona in the Ladies’?

There’s that privileged sense that all’s right with the world, and a woke “You will not trample on our rights” resentment of it motivating action.

There’s a sense that society generally supports me, and so it’s going to be alright, and experience that it doesn’t, so that I have to support myself and my rights. The comfortable cis woman can include Fiona as part of her in-group. The woke feminist oppressed by patriarchy won’t.

There’s an optimistic way of looking at opportunities, and a pessimistic concern with threats.

There’s also making your own decision about a threat, and following blindly when the hard Right tells you to punch down on some group.

What is going on with the trans debate? How do I bring those strands together and make them work for inclusion? How do I understand where my opponent is coming from, and bring us together? There is such a thing as society– how can there be a “we” here?

Cerys, sitting on her mother’s knee and just starting to sit up by herself, not yet crawling, has a super-power. She can make adults around her blissful by showing contentment, or distracted by her cries. I don’t know her or her mother, and was affected instantly. There is a clear evolutionary advantage to this, I see. We are bound to each other in sympathy and interest, and split apart. Cerys is safe, with her mother and father and community caring for her. One of the problems we face in the terrible Twos is that our joy and grief no longer have that power, automatically- so how to preserve it? By privilege, by community and by Righteous Truth.

How can there be room in the World, for two people who disagree? How might both of them be safe?

Genuine trans women III

Some terfs want all trans women out of women’s spaces. Trans women are men, they say. And others think there are men, and trans women who should be grudgingly tolerated. It’s a question of where to draw the line.

There could be different lines for different matters. We don’t do much harm in a loo, but might do in a women’s refuge. If you get sent to prison you are probably less trustworthy than if you get sent to hospital. If a trans woman play sports her greater size will be an advantage, but given that reaching female-normal levels of hormones weakens muscles, and is a huge sacrifice for a man, probably the trans woman who fits the rules will be “genuine” and should be allowed to compete.

Even I drew a line. By law, we are protected if we have decided to transition even if we have not reached any particular milestone- gone out expressing female, gone to work expressing female, thrown out all the male clothes, seen a doctor, started hormones, had surgery. I don’t want the line to be passing privilege, but I have some vague idea of what would be taking the piss, for example wearing a beard. And I feel to be going out expressing female regularly is necessary. I don’t think someone should go to the Labour Party women’s conference dressed male. Theoretically it’s possible, and so my line is more strict than the law is.

Or, you could just accept someone’s word that they are a trans woman, unless there is reason to disbelieve them.

A useless line is surgery. Surgery proves commitment. But, some of us are desperate for surgery and, because we are reliant on the NHS, will have years to wait. Unless the trans woman is a rapist, her penis really does not matter. We hope that in hospital the penis would not be on show, but then we hope vulvas and nipples would not be on show either, that people could have dignity.

Surgery is a line which has a great deal of attraction for the transphobes. If they want to appear reasonable, not hostile to actual trans women, just “men” “pretending to be women”, surgery could be the line they draw. Like the Mail’s “help help the sky is falling” article about trans women in women’s hospital wards, because they identify as women. Link to web archive. Nasty little extreme right transphobe David TC Davies MP popped up to say male-bodied people should not be on women’s wards, but only ten trusts reported any complaints or incidents- that is the Mail, right at the end of its article, confirms it’s a non-story.

The thing is, how would you know? Trans women with penises would not want anyone catching sight of them. I don’t want people seeing my vulva, but would have been more embarrassed before the operation.

What we need is a sign of commitment, and being sort of reasonable. Don’t be a pain. For commitment, surgery is an impossible standard, it could happen ten years or more after transition. Chucking out all ones male clothes is a good enough sign. It’s more than the law requires. And, try not to leave your penis on show.

I read that ‘trans women’ (as opposed to transsexuals) have penises. I keep harking back to this because it is so ridiculous. I asked people. Some identify as “a woman with a trans history” or even just “a woman”. Few identify as transsexual. Some who want an operation but have not yet had it identify as transsexual, and many said they had had the operation but called themselves trans women out of solidarity with those earlier on the transition journey.

The real issue with surgery being the line is that it is repugnant to ask someone whether she has had surgery. If I were asked if I were transsexual, and realised that the subtext was that a “transsexual” was presumed to have had the operation, I would refuse to say. Wouldn’t you?

DSM V Gender dysphoria

What do you need, to get a diagnosis of gender dysphoria? This is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association definition of gender dysphoria:

A marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender, of at least 6 months duration, as manifested by at least two of the following:

1. a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and primary and/or secondary sex characteristics (or, in young adolescents, the anticipated secondary sex characteristics).

2. a strong desire to be rid of one’s primary and/or secondary sex characteristics because of a marked incongruence with one’s experienced/expressed gender (or, in young adolescents, a desire to prevent the development of the anticipated secondary sex characteristics).

3. a strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the other gender.

4. a strong desire to be of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender).

5. a strong desire to be treated as the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender).

6. a strong conviction that one has the typical feelings and reactions of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender).

Under “Diagnostic features” it notes that “There must also be evidence of distress about this incongruence. Experienced gender may include alternative gender identities beyond binary stereotypes… Adults feel uncomfortable being regarded by others, or functioning in society, as members of their assigned gender.”

Medicine is practical. Doctors don’t make people conform to a particular ideal Wellness, but help us continue to function. This definition is focused on the patients, and what we believe, desire and experience.

You don’t need to desire to change sex characteristics. Secondary sex characteristics include facial hair, or the lack of it, so a desire to change that, rather than gonads or genitals, is enough. So the attempt of some gender critical feminists to distinguish between transsexuals (acceptable) and transgender (not) is not backed up by the APA.

Alternative gender identities: the diagnosis recognises non-binary people. It does not state that the appropriate treatment will be hormones or body alteration, but at least recognises they exist. Private doctors may be more keen to give the patient what they want, so recommend surgery or hormones.

The evidence of “distress” is a fudge. Many of us are not distressed by our gender, but by society’s (perceived) response to it. I know I am a woman, but other people rejecting that distresses me. And, I decided that to be distressed by others’ responses gave them too much power over me. I accept that some people think I am a man. I am not going to waste any energy trying to persuade them otherwise, and I am not going to get upset about it. And, being seen as a woman is not necessary for friendship or politeness: they could see me as a transwoman but think that’s OK.

Yet, if you are not distressed, you are not ill. Being trans is not an illness, it is just a way people are. That means the diagnosis would change to something like gender incongruence in the proposed ICD, as it is only necessary for psychiatrists to intervene if someone wants genital surgery. You might like the backing of a psychiatrist- yes, I really am like this, I am a trans woman- but that is more the province of social scientists than of doctors.

The conviction that one has the feelings and reactions of the other gender does not fit me either. I am a gender critical feminist. I don’t think either gender is so limited, and the feelings of both are the same. I believe the reactions are culturally conditioned rather than innate. I believe my feelings and reactions fit the feminine stereotype far better than the masculine.

The convictions need to have lasted six months for diagnosis. There is no need for The Script, a claim that the feelings have lasted since childhood. But the longer the feelings have lasted, the more likely it is that they will persist, so treatment is less risky.

DSM V estimates prevalence at 0.005% to 0.014% in natal males and 0.002-0.003% in natal females. Other estimates go from 0.1-1%.

It’s all a botched job. It is trying to create a working definition for a varied human phenomenon, and people may try to fit that definition to get what we want.

Maria Miller

Maria Miller MP spoke out for trans people last week. She is the kind of Tory who might not do too much damage to the country, if she were in opposition: she was a Remainer, but last month spoke out for the Prime Minister’s Brexit arrangements. She overclaimed expenses, and the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner recommended she repay £45,000, and she wanted to reduce the abortion time limit to twenty weeks, but she also wanted to extend abortion rights to women in Northern Ireland. As far as possible, she is a moderate Tory.

She said the government was doing nothing for us, almost as clearly as she could. The government had focused its work for trans people on GRA reform, while “many trans people don’t have access to basic healthcare”. And on GRA reform little has been actually done.

Well, yes. GRA reform affects whether we can get a different gender marker on birth and marriage certificates, and that is it. The hatefest which has followed, with confected arguments about what it means and the obsession with trans people in certain media- only to make us an Out-group, whom it is acceptable to hate- has been exacerbated by the government’s delay.

The transphobe Helen Lewis attacked Maria Miller. She misrepresented the case from the start.

The heart of the fake feminist case against trans recognition is that there is some imagined threat to single sex services. Helen Lewis continues to claim that: in her latest article she linked to an earlier one, claiming that GRA reform means men in women’s spaces. That’s governed by the Equality Act, but Lewis continues to express concerns about self-ID and its impact on single-sex spaces.

Lewis claims she has been abused as a TERF, and as transphobic, though she believes trans women are women and trans men are men. Well. Is she a transphobe? She claimed a law reform which gives a right to an extract birth certificate threatened women’s spaces. That’s spreading falsehoods and fear against us.

I’ve just checked marriage certificates. There is no gender indicator on the current marriage certificate. My GRC stops me forming a civil partnership with a man, but allows me to form a civil partnership with a woman (if I could find one). GRC reform affects no-one, hardly even trans people. I haven’t shown my new birth certificate to anyone. Though it was expensive to get it, and once it was possible to get a birth certificate marked F I wanted it.

Lewis’ transphobia lies in her insistence on surgery. What used to be called “sex change surgery”, she writes, as if other names are beyond her. She distinguishes between “transsexuals” (good) and “transgender people” (bad). If you don’t hate your genitals and desire surgery, you are not proper trans. However the DSM and ICD do not require a desire for surgery for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

If trans women are women, and trans men are men, trans women should be in women’s spaces. Stop fearmongering about us.

Debbie Hayton wrote in the Morning Star that The government’s handling of transgender rights has been mismanaged from the start- delays in access to healthcare are harming trans people’s quality of life. I find this unobjectionable; but trans women who hate her because she supports the terfs and transphobes objected to her even saying this. It’s tragic. That anyone calls for more funding for trans health is a good thing, whatever their views on anything else.

To cleanse your palette after all this: a summary of human needs from Radio 4. Apparently we need autonomy, competence and relatedness: we need freedom of choice, we need to feel we are quite good at doing something and we need to have social bonds with people. Yup.

Out and proud in the Bronze Age

Non-binary people were honoured in the city of Hasanlu before it was destroyed in 800 BCE. The evidence is in burials and in art: not just a hole-in-corner existence, but recognition as a normal part of society, honoured by family and the wider culture.

We have no writing from there, but there are burials. Some skeletons can be identified as female or male from the pelvis, or possibly from the skull, but if these are incomplete it might not be possible. These people were buried with valuable items, whether as a sign of respect or for use in the afterlife, and the items fitted three genders.

Weapons, armour and metal vessels were associated with male skeletons. Jewellery, needles and pins for fastening garments were for women in this culture, but out of 51 burials analysed ten burials had masculine and feminine artifacts. A male skeleton had an arrowhead, which is for a man, and a garment pin, which in that culture is as feminine as you can get. I wore a kilt pin when I presented male, but that’s a different culture.

Another skeleton which cannot be sexed had a garment pin and a metal drinking cup. They performed masculine rituals in feminine clothes. All the burials show evidence of formal ritual to show the person’s identity and social status, masculine, feminine, or between. Of the ten skeletons, five were male, two female and three not identifiable, which might show that AMAB people had greater ability to express themselves as non-binary than AFAB people.

It also shows that men being feminine was not shameful, was not denied by the relatives, was part of the culture. That in turn shows that women were more equal in the culture, or things fitting for women would be shameful for men. Am I going too far? I understand the ancient culture with my own categories. I know that non-binary exists. It seems to fit these ancient skeletons and the ritual of their burial. My readers will also know that non-binary exists, and that it is not weird, or strange, or shameful; and so be happy to imagine that it was perfectly normal for these ancient people. Anyone who might deny that might be projecting their own social categories and sense of shame back three thousand years.

Pictures from the Hasanlu culture showed only women seated on the floor, generally, but the Hasanlu gold bowl has a person with a beard in women’s clothes, seated on the floor.

Details from Haaretz. Picture credit.

A Mermaids training session

Mermaids is the charity caring for trans children and teens in the UK. Recently, their training session was recorded, so you can listen to it and hear how reasonable it is. There are also transcripts.

The man who clandestinely recorded it clearly thought he was being so brave going undercover, challenging the trainer. There was a shock, horror article about it in the Times. When you listen to it, you can see that any gender critical person who was not prejudiced about trans people, would find it unobjectionable. The Times article is a complete distortion of what is said.

The trainer, who is lesbian, proves the Times wrong. “Trans ideologists are spreading cod science,” says the headline- no, her statistics are clear. She starts by talking about “gender reveal parties”. We find out what is between the foetus’ legs, and it becomes he or she, and so we get pink or blue clothes. “Lots of children don’t fit those boy and girl boxes.” Lots of things are on a spectrum. People have different heights and skin colours. On a scale of 1 (Princess Barbie) to 12 (GI Joe) the trainer puts herself as a 5. Yet the Times claims the two extremes are the only alternatives given. It is a deliberate misrepresentation of a subtle argument that gender varies between everyone, not just trans people; and some people are gender fluid, being one style at one time and one style at another. “We’re not all one thing,” she says.

The Times mocks talk of jelly babies, but it would help participants become playful and so permit them to think in less rigid ways. As the audience shows, everyone knows the extreme stereotypes, which are strongly emphasised by the culture. Gender identity is different from sexuality, but neither may be controlled. Some people are intersex.

Jan tells her own experience. She had no problem being a tomboy, but in the early seventies was terrified of people knowing she was lesbian, as a child, but being a boy who likes “girlish” activities is different. GI Joe is a stereotype, cultural not innate, but “when people buy into it it becomes real”. She began to define trans and cis, but the interloper interrupted, and put her off track. Then she defines non-binary and gender fluid. Some people identify as queer, and some people hate the term. People can socially transition without transitioning medically. No-one need know a trans person’s operation status. Trans women can be gay or straight- a straight trans woman is attracted to men. Younger people are far more comfortable with gender fluidity.

She speaks movingly of when she internalised homophobia. “There are places where I would be in danger, and people… who hate me because of who I am.” That is, lesbian. It’s like carrying a heavy weight. She wants being queer, or trans, to be not an issue any more. She explains pronouns and misgendering, how painful it can be.

She gets gender incongruence slightly wrong. It’s not a psychological condition in the draft ICD, but that ICD has not yet been approved. There is evidence of a biological underpinning to trans. There are positive role models visible in society, lesbian and trans. She refers to brain research, and googling I found this. Always there is new research. 1% are trans, she says, though not how many of them transition.

She explains the history of Mermaids, supporting trans children and their parents. 40% of those children cannot be out at home, so schools should support them. She explains the Equality Act and the difficulties LGBT people can face from family and society. Maybe 10% of the population are bigoted against us, so the rest should be mindful of that and speak up for us.

When a child is fully supported to lead their own transition, their mental health is the same as their peers’. When the child is prevented, their mental health suffers. Because parents are resistant, and GPs may be unsympathetic, schools can refer people to the Tavistock and Portman clinic, the Gender and Identity Development Service for under 18s. After a long series of assessments, where medically indicated, a child may be given puberty blockers. Low doses of cross sex hormones are not given to children under 16, and rarely to older children. The youngest child seen is 4.

Attendees should research further, at the Tavistock website and Stonewall. They should challenge stereotyping, and be able to tell children about available support. Children can change their name officially, and choose a name to be known as in school. Staff should be told of transition on a need-to-know basis, and it should be treated matter-of-factly: just as a woman may change her name on marriage, so a child may change gender presentation. Mermaids can help schools with any necessary policies.

Janice Turner in the Times clearly finds all of this unobjectionable, as she attacks things Jan the trainer did not say. The man making the recording tried to challenge the trainer, claiming that her suicide statistics were wrong, and that she had based them on a survey of 27 self-referred people, though she had referred to the Stonewall School Report, which says at page 7 that 45% of more than 592 trans people had tried to take their own lives. He claims that the suicide statistic is used to put pressure on schools, and minimises the evidence of suicide attempts. He is not an honest reporter. The second recording ends abruptly, and it is not clear what happened after that.

Similarly, the transcripts are made by anti-trans campaigners, and are littered with inaccuracies. For example, where the anonymous recorder spoke of “dysmorphia” the transcript records it as “dysphoria”. There are also sarky asides- where the trainer is assertive, it calls her “really really cross”. It says [long, looooooong pause for us all to reflect on whether it’s wise to challenge Mermaids woman further. Clearly no one else is prepared to take her on] Actually, it is at most five seconds.

The transcripts are misleading. They put in headings which are not on the audio, such as Help kids to socially or even legally change their name. You don’t need to tell the parents. In fact, feel free to ignore their authority! You would think a feminist would have heard of Gillick competence: children can decide whether their parents should hear about their medical treatment. Mostly, though, the transcripts do not seriously distort the message of the trainer, if you ignore the headings.

Audio recording part 1 part 2.

Googledocs transcript part 1 part 2.

Trans blogs

Who is blogging on trans?

Here is Dee, who is early on in her coming out. Her sister, niece and nephew know and are supportive, and she has told four friends. It is lovely to read her new year post expressing her delight in that support and her explorations. She will explore further, and share it.

I went to the WordPress tag “trans” to find what people would see there, apart from me. I was so put off by the first post that I went to the tag transgender to see if it were any better. Michael Coward claims that Christians are doing a great deal of damage. He has a long screed arguing that the Bible does not condemn LGB people to a life of celibacy, and reporting trans suicide attempt statistics. God, it’s depressing. He explains that “Evolution is not a theory in crisis” and links to an earnest site arguing that, but also saying that Christian leaders challenging the theory may be “well-intentioned”. I don’t believe that. Christians should have a respect for truth, and natural selection is clearly evidenced. Those Creationists are denying the truth. In the same way, when Michael challenges the assertion that LGB people should be celibate, I no longer care. Yes there are Christians who believe that, and he describes conversations with them, showing how closed-minded they can be. I have mostly given up debating with the sickos who condemn us. I used to visit their blogs, and even made friends there, but now can’t be bothered. There’s only so much stupid one can take.

According to this blog, wherever the writer is, “Chakka”, meaning transgender, is a playground insult. He likens it to Muslims being called terrorists. Still, I learned something:  मादरचोद is Hindi for “Motherfucker”, pronounced maadarachod. Someone who confesses to being “conservative”– never a good sign- says the “transgender cult” is pushing women out of women’s sports. everyone outside of brainwashed gender studies professors knows these scientific facts. I could of course rip this to shreds, but can’t be bothered.

I liked the look of Geansworld on “New Years Joy!”. Gean is an intersex woman. I don’t know why she tagged transgender, but enjoyed reading of her adopting a cat.

Tomcat has been on disability for months, after his transgender surgery, but the pain of being in a body that does not match his brain is a lot less. He’s feeling better and rebuilding his life. I wish him well. He writes, We’re all surviving, one way or another, with what we have right now. Some of us are fighting to survive in ways others will never see or understand. 

Charlotte, from North Carolina, has a trans daughter called Heather and another daughter called Abby. She gives thanks, for she has found friendship and support when she had feared losing friends when they found out about Heather. It’s the same theme as Tomcat for the new year: survival, and slight surprise.

Scroll a little further. Another fool blogging endlessly about LGBT from an American Family Values perspective, without any comments or likes at all and perhaps no readers but me. This is why you should find your trans blogs on T-Central, which lists dozens of trans blogs and news sites.

Identity Politics

Is “Identity politics” destroying beauty and truth in Art? Writer and art critic Sohrab Ahmari argues particularly trans and gender variant issues are clogging galleries with worthless pieces.

Why is there identity politics in Art? It is a reaction to failings in the art world. All art is political. I love The History of Art by EH Gombrich, but it has only one work by a woman. Here it is.

Women’s art addresses issues important to women from a woman’s perspective. Men will benefit from seeing this, by gaining empathy and understanding. Almost ignoring women’s art, Gombrich missed out the perspective of half of humanity. Artemisia Gentileschi’s rapist said she could recover her honour as a woman no longer virgin, by marrying him. See the glorious contempt her female subjects have for the men:

Ahmari says political work is not beautiful. Identity politics is fundamentally opposed to free speech and free thought… art that deals with race, gender, sexuality, power and privilege dominates the art scene. He contrasts this with a Caravaggio:

The beauty of Italian art in the 17th century is clear. Both these paintings show real people, in complex poses. Their faces are expressive. The boy reaches out for fruit, and is unexpectedly bitten, perhaps a metaphor for a dose of the clap.

Ahmari wants art to describe the world as you really see it rather than putting everything through a political frame. Yet the experience of unwanted sexual attention is the world as Gentileschi experienced it, and any man should see is widespread.

It is not clear that the “identity politics” work, dealing with the women’s issue of unwanted sexual attention, is less beautiful. However, the skills of representation are so widespread now, when many illustrators could show a wide variety of facial expression and human posture, that art has moved on. Gombrich shows how the greatest painters learned them from scratch, over centuries, but now they can be taught in amateur sketching classes.

Contemporary art is beautiful in a different way. Charlotte Prodger’s Turner Prize-winning piece is beautiful. In her video she talks of being misgendered. I relate to it. My experience is in her art. It may not be Ahmari’s experience, yet art about how trans and gender variant people experience the world directly speaks to us, and enables others to see our point of view- it enlarges their empathy and understanding.

Ahmari claims not to be criticising autobiography in art, using one’s own life, but you need to say something about the human condition as well, not just about yourself. Well, Ahmari does not get misgendered, but he probably gets misunderstood and misrepresented. If he approaches Prodger’s work with empathy and imagination rather than judgment, he would see the universal message in it.

In the programme, Alexander Adams says publicly funded art tends to have a very narrow political view. There should be art that is critical of multiculturalism, critical of immigration, critical of transgenderism. If he can point to any good art critical of immigration I would like to see it. I am reminded of the Great German Art exhibition, running concurrently to the Degenerate Art exhibition. We hear again the idea that the Trans Lobby is fantastically powerful, shutting down debate, and yet here are all the free speech advocates, endlessly inveighing against us.

All art is political. It either underpins or subverts current power structures. It either silences or gives a voice to disempowered groups. In the programme, Tiffany Jenkins says I think the arts have been asked to solve social problems. So they’ve been asked to improve the lives of communities by raising their self-esteem, by making them feel good about themselves. I don’t think the arts can do that. But I loved the exhibition Art in the Age of Black Power: Black people, standing tall and proud despite oppression. Seeing these heroes must have inspired Black people looking at these works, and I, with my white privilege, can delight in that heroism and resistance.

Ahmari mentions the controversy over Dana Schutz’s painting of Emmett Till. He ignores the point that Black artists are underrepresented in white-run art galleries. When we are equal, we can share each others’ stories, but the powerful should not use the stories of the weak for their own gain.

My experience as a trans woman is generalisable to universal human experience- of the tension between being yourself and fitting in; of feeling and hurt and delight. Art by trans people seen with sympathy can enlarge the understanding of its audience. It is not “identity politics” to show art by gender variant people, but simply Art- seeing the universal in the particular, enlarging our understanding of what it is to be human. As Ahmari says, probably most of the art created now will not be around in fifty years’ time- but the best will survive, and will include art by minorities. Because not only white western men can be artists.

Zero-sum game

How should Quakers welcome trans people? As part of the glorious diversity of humanity, people with new perspectives, which enrich us; as suffering under the weight of transphobia in society, requiring our support as part of the testimony to equality. As people who can bless a Quaker meeting. Treat them with courtesy like any other enquirer attender or member. Simple. Few meeting houses need to separate loos by gender, and trans people can be trusted to choose which they use just like anyone else. It need not cause a problem.

It only causes a problem if we trans people are treated as a symbol of other conflicts in society. For a small, passionate minority, we are. Someone told me that when trans women are included as women, the centring of women’s rights disappears. Even if no trans woman is seen, the suggestion that she would be tolerated is unacceptable for that person.

Transphobia exists like arachnophobia. Just as someone might overreact to a spider, so some people feel disgust, a disproportionately strong feeling, just on seeing me in my ordinary clothes. I know because they’ve told me.

So we have a zero-sum game. Do we welcome the trans woman, and risk offending that principled woman, or do we ensure the principled woman is protected, and exclude the trans woman? You could of course argue that the trans woman is not disadvantaged by being told to use the disabled loo, but the trans woman might disagree. I don’t want told which loo to use. I want to be trusted to make my own choice.

Many meeting houses will not have specifically women’s activities or women’s spaces. Many will have no trans people. Even where there are women’s activities, they may accept trans women. The Quaker Women’s Group which did the Swarthmore Lecture in 1986 but I think has been laid down decided around 2003 that they would welcome anyone “who experienced themself as a woman”. I had asked, and my Friend said they had considered and would welcome me. The Quaker Lesbian Group had more difficulty deciding.

I find the Quaker Life statement problematic, addressing this. All Quaker premises and events ought to provide facilities which everyone feels safe and comfortable using. The usage of these facilities must be clearly defined and communicated and must offer choice for the individual. That seems to indicate there should be a rule, established beforehand. I don’t think there should.

If we address it as a matter of principle, without considering individuals involved, we risk excluding people before they arrive. A rule excluding trans women from women’s spaces in Quaker meetings would offend trans people. It would become the important matter I would need addressed. It might drive others away, or prevent them from enquiring. This must not be a zero-sum game. If someone is offended by me, let us find ways forward using Quaker processes. Unless someone is specifically offended by me, allow me to make my own choices. This involves accepting unknowing- yes, theoretically someone might be offended; but we can’t know if anyone will. We can never know we will be safe and righteous in every conceivable situation.

Unless we create a specific rule for ourselves, the default is that people can choose the spaces we use. We can deal with difficulties as they arise, but if we anticipate them we are guaranteed to offend someone.

There is a problem with this. When I have been excluded from women’s space, no-one has said they personally, individually, find me offensive- they are caring for others who might. Indeed if you are offended by me you may feel unable to speak out about that. Someone might find this principle particularly important.

We should address such a principle as a belief. Some people accept trans women are women, or see how transition frees us to be ourselves, and see that as something to be celebrated. Some people think transition is wrong, and that accepting trans women undermines feminism. If we accept that we benefit from welcoming different beliefs about spiritual experiences- though the spiritual experience is at the heart of what brings us together, we welcome Christocentric and Non-theist and a wide range of other understandings, and are enriched by that- we cannot demand that anyone has a belief about trans people.

Some truths clearly emerge from our testimonies. Slavery and nuclear weapons are wrong. We should reduce our consumption for the good of the planet as well as for simplicity. But we should be careful about establishing particular understandings of truth, which can be contradicted by philosophers or scientists, or policies, which can be superseded. There need be a single Quaker View on remarkably little, for it restricts our ability to learn, develop and change. I cannot be consistent until I am inerrant: I accept uncertainty as the price of being open to new understanding.

It is not a matter about clear truth, but about inconsistent partial truths. To say that I am a woman expresses a profound personal truth for me, and perhaps a few dozen other trans Quakers. To welcome me as a woman respects my Leading. To respect my idiosyncrasies is profoundly important to queer Quakers, who need acceptance too, and to any Quaker who sees that their idiosyncracies may be expressed among Quakers to a greater extent than anywhere else, because of our love and our freedom.