Now they come for the trans people

The government has abandoned any pretense of supporting trans people’s human rights. They claim to be protecting children from trans people. According to the Daily Mail, a source said,

‘The priorities of the brief are being put on ice. Fundamentally, it is the Secretary of State’s belief that adults should be given full freedom to decide how they want to live their lives and should not face barriers to doing so. When children are growing up, they are still developing those decision-making capabilities and there is a role to be played in protecting them and making sure that the implications of decisions are fully understood.’

This is irrelevant. The consultation did not propose gender recognition under 18. It proposed a Statutory Declaration- made in front of a solicitor or JP, with the penalty of perjury for falsehood- which is for adults only.

However, there will be no rights for adults, because of the fear that trans acceptance makes children transition, even children who are not trans.

The Daily Mail said This spared No 10 a direct confrontation with the well-organised, pro-transgender lobby. If we were well organised or powerful we would have won. This is the standard tactic of demonisation- Your enemies are powerful! We must fight them! Our children are under threat!

An unnamed source said making Liz Truss Women and Equalities minister was an opportunity to “strangle the issue”. TERFs rejoicing should note that Truss is no feminist. They put this symbolic issue, having almost no effect on women, ahead of real feminist issues.

The government will not stop there. David Cameron, a beacon of moderation compared to the current lot, wanted to repeal the Human Rights Act, and the Tories are now in full on demonisation mode. They will take away our current Equality Act rights if they are not stopped.

Who will be next? Johnson wants to win an election based on hate and fear. For every fact-based objection about Brexit, Johnson has a fantasy narrative. Food, fuel and medicine shortages? Blitz Spirit. Irish border? Technological solutions. Things going wrong? Remainer conspiracy. Delay past Halloween? Not his fault, he said Get Brexit done. His experience is that if his propagandists in the press and social media shout this loudly enough, sufficient voters will echo his rage fantasies, inflamed by his fighting words- surrender, traitor.

He uses an imagined enemy- the Metropolitan Elite- as the hate figure, but also real people- immigrants, by which his dupes understand Black and minority ethnic people and EU citizens who have made their lives here. Now he is moving on LGBT, starting with the most vulnerable. Any gender variant people- including many TERFs- will be next.

We must not let him. We must talk to people, canvass, point out better ways. When lies win over truth, democracy dies.


What would it be like, to transition male to female, revert, transition again and revert again? To be living presenting male after having two periods of several years expressing yourself female?

David transitioned in Toronto in the 1980s. He said his initial motivation was transvestite. How would he know? Transvestites, or cross dressers, might dress occasionally or compulsively for a sexual thrill, but the thrill wears off and they want to dress normally again. Yet he saw a gender clinic and was prescribed oestrogen. He must have had some diagnoscible signs of transsexualism.

It seemed to me that he was being self-deprecating about his motivations. Living female, one might be motivated to express the desire to do so in positive terms: I am expressing the real me, being authentic. Having reverted, the temptation is to see it as a mistake, an aberration.

He was recommended to have vaginoplasty, but is pleased he did not. However not having the operation may have made him feel a fraud, inauthentic in his female presentation, and that might have made it less comfortable. Then he met a female partner, and reverted so they could be together. Having the operation may make it harder to revert, as you have burned your boats and can no longer present male- even though you rarely show your crotch, you are aware of the absence.

Early this century he transitioned again, and spent a few years living female and taking hormones. Then he reverted again. Now he appears to talk about his experiences in a sweater, leggings and tight wedge-heeled boots which come to just below the knee. Boots over trousers, a look I love, is out of fashion. He has an androgynous look, towering over me in his high heels. He has a full head of hair, though not thick hair, cut short. I don’t know how he would dress most of the time, but wearing one or two items of women’s clothing while presenting mostly male or androgynous is brave. He has done the work of self-acceptance.

He sounds regretful and dissatisfied. Neither expressing female nor presenting male has been fulfilling for him. He had a reasonable career as an academic and, now retired, is a councillor.

I think he wanted to fit in, and found with his feminine character he could not fit in to his satisfaction with either presentation. He will experience less respect from others than more “manly” men, often. It’s still better to be yourself than to try to put on a front, and he may be able to be himself better as an androgynous male than as a trans woman.

He came to talk to Norwich Quakers at their listening meeting, to hear experiences of people supporting a change to gender recognition law. He was ambivalent. Having your gender change recognised four times would certainly be easier if only a statutory declaration was required, rather than all the paraphernalia of two years’ documentary evidence plus a specialist psychiatrist’s letter, but vacillating like this might indicate gender recognition was a bad thing, encouraging people to waste their lives chasing a chimera (I’m being devil’s advocate here).

Whereas I take his story as supporting gender recognition. It shows the strength of the compulsion to express female full time, despite the difficulties, and if society supports that with a simple system of gender recognition, it will be easier and lives will not be wasted in the effort of transition and reversion, and all the soul-searching that involves. Certainly he is nothing like the Terf bogeyman of a pervert signing a form to get access to women’s spaces.

Also at that meeting was a trans woman who transitioned aged 54. She has a male voice, her own hair, and does not think she passes but she is accepted, mostly. She says we are harmless. She told of her operation and hormones, and stood up for the Stonewall figure of 500,000 trans people. She admired my presentation, saying I passed much better. I enjoyed the compliment, and regret that we are judged in that way. I

And there was a lesbian who organises Norwich Pride, and was robust in her support for us.

I got the train to Peterborough and cycled home, arriving just before nine. I cycled in the dark on a busy road then a quiet road with steep up and down movements. It was horrible, but bearable- the mode of transport I can afford. In intermittent light rain I was still too hot in a t shirt, jeans and sandals. I am always hot exercising, and blame the effects of the hormones.

An account of My Trans Experiences

For the edification of the Nice People called Quakers.

I went to Norwich Quaker meeting at the weekend. After they hosted the hate group WPUK, they decided to hold listening meetings to hear the experiences of trans people, and of those who “wish to think through all the possible consequences” of gender recognition reform. I could object that they are using the hate group’s language, but I suppose that they are outdated- realising that gender recognition reform will have no consequences, the hate group has moved on to attacking a Parliamentary committee report which the government has no intention of implementing, and to seek to repeal trans rights under the Equality Act.

I cycled to Peterborough and took the train to Norwich, where Quakers put me up overnight.

In Meeting the chorus This is the day that the Lord has made ran in my mind. I thought of how in Meeting one lets go of resistance and resentment of the way things are, to be empowered to take right action. I hoped to accept the Love of God, breathe it in, and so be enabled to open my heart and channel it. Invited to introduce myself I expressed nervousness of the afternoon meeting, and prayed may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

I want to tell the truth in Love.

This is more or less what I said or wanted to say.


Be wary of asking for personal experiences. I used to represent at benefits tribunals, where an often inarticulate claimant would be asked personal questions about their health difficulties, then the tribunal would decide if they believed them, and if it was enough. I remember Sarah Beech, the chair, leaning forward and asking in a loud, posh magistrate’s voice, “Do you wet yourself?”

I thought of various sexual assaults to tell of. Before transition I was walking across Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester to a black tie dinner in my kilt, when some men began speculating whether I wore anything underneath it. One, taller and broader than me, came over to check. He overwhelmed me. He whispered almost gently in my ear, and I did not resist, and confirmed to his friends that I wasn’t.

I tell this not to prove that it makes me a woman, or that I am entitled to be in women’s spaces, but to say that sexual assault and manipulation is all-pervasive in our society, that it is humiliating, and you should beware of asking for personal experiences because of the world of pain you will expose. I told of an incident involving a Quaker who hits his wife. At YM a Friend ministered that the only place she had been fat-shamed was amongst Quakers, and an article in The Friend referred to someone being excluded from a discussion group because she is Black. My uncle beat my grandmother, and the last time he saw her my father told me “she couldn’t stop screaming”. This phenomenon is described in The Karamazov Brothers.

When Tommy Robinson claims “Muslims are coming over here, raping our women and girls”, no-one here would call that a feminist position. When David TC Davies, the MP for Monmouth who voted to reduce the abortion time limit to twelve weeks, commented on the conviction of a Muslim of rape that “we are importing bad attitudes to women into this country” he was condemned. Now he’s claiming gender recognition reform may affect women’s rights, not out of feminist principle but to set the Left against itself and, by making that form of alternative gender expression that is transition more difficult, to reinforce authoritarian gender stereotypes. In the same way, Kiri Tunks, here in Norwich Quaker meeting house, with fearmongering and half truths, sought to inflame fear and anger against trans women. I am Scots. You would not want to exclude me because of Scottish rapists and murderers in prison, but Tunks sought to inflame fear of us by talking of a trans rapist. I share one characteristic with that rapist. It does not mean I share others.

I am not here in this rather lovely Monsoon dress to show anyone how women should be, but to express my true self. It is a paradox: at the same time we reinforce stereotypes by the way we express ourselves, and subvert them by being ourselves against our upbringing.

I have a great deal of sympathy with the anti-trans campaigners. They find gender stereotypes constraining, and so do I.

I show my calculation of 40,000 trans people protected by the Equality Act 2010 here. There are more gender variant people, but they are not protected and they may not wish to present as the other sex, or be too frightened to. My Friend has decided not to transition as their wife could not bear it and they love their wife.

What does a gender recognition certificate mean? Everything and nothing. It declares that my gender is female, and the Act declares that my sex is female, but as soon as I went full time female I got a passport and driving licence indicating I am female. That was before the Act: Corbett v Corbett or Ashley indicates it was the case from at least 1970. In 2005 my Friend got a GRC and got her state retirement pension earlier, but retirement age is equalised now. At the time it would have affected whom I could marry, but not after the Marriage Act.

It is the Equality Act which lets me compete in women’s sports subject to rules by governing bodies- the IOC requires a significant reduction in testosterone levels. The Equality Act lets me into women’s spaces, but also lets me be excluded, as I remain a person who has undergone a procedure for reassigning sex. I can be excluded if there is a good reason, a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. I have a law degree, and read discrimination law to represent in employment tribunals. I have familiarised myself with the Act.

Gender research shows that the enforcement of stereotypes is all-pervasive, like atmospheric pressure, and like the air some people hardly notice it, some are buffeted by winds. People have an idea of which characteristics are masculine or feminine, but they don’t correlate: having some does not mean you have others.

Mine is the Love that has not chosen its name. We do not call a gay man a “sodomite” any more, or even a “homosexual”, which is deprecated as quasi-scientific and medicalising. Yet the words for my way of relating are all condemning or mocking: I am a pansy, attracted to viragos, termagants or harridans- “mannish” or “overbearing” women. This is my sexuality: I am not speaking for all trans women, and not all people like this transition.

My parents were like that. My mother “wore the trousers”. They were terrified of anyone finding out. They had few friends. Relations with people outside the family were at arms length. We were terribly concerned with appearances- I still am- and I had to appear to be a real man. I was delighted when I started to grow body hair as I would not appear so runtlike.

In 2013, three months before he died, I had my first honest conversation about this with my father. It was not deep or detailed, but we acknowledged it to each other. In the late Nineties, in my early thirties, after my mother had died I decided it was time to rebel against my parents, and I have been doing teenage ever since. I was completely under my mother’s thumb. I am Scots. I have an English accent because my mother was English.

Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran pastor brought up in a fundamentalist church, still reacts to other female pastors- a voice in her head says women should not teach in church. She resisted that voice, and now has come to terms with it. In the same way introjects thoughts still bully me for being unmanly, or say other trans women ought not to be that way, the way I am myself.

Transition allowed me to accept myself. I am soft, gentle, peaceful, and not seeing that as weak sick perverted disgusting ridiculous and illusory has been a struggle. My slender arms and hands are beautiful. I could only appreciate my body as beautiful after transition. I wanted transition more than anything else in the world. A woman I knew was in a wheelchair with MS, and I would have swapped lives with her.

Transition gave me a framework of ideas, words and stories which enabled me to see clearly, appreciate and value who I really am. My introjects still say I am unmanly, and that is a bad thing, but I am not so scared of them any more.

Sara Ahmed shows how hard it is for people to admit anything is wrong. So when someone complains, they may be treated as the problem. To admit their complaint is justified and someone else is a wrongdoer is too terrifying. A university may have an inclusion policy to signal virtue rather than to correct its faults.

I am a symbol. I am one every man is entitled to despise, such as the man who came to my meeting house four days before the sentencing hearing at which he was imprisoned. When he said to me “look mate, I don’t know if you’re a man or a woman” that was a personal challenge, claiming his right to contempt for me. Friends have a blind spot on that, as if it were a simple observation.

I was cycling to Meeting when a car passed me selfishly and dangerously. When he stopped because a car in front was turning right, I overtook and shouted at him. He was very angry. He shouted “I’ll kill you, you fucking poof. You need killing.” I was distressed at this, and when before Meeting (not during worship) I expressed the depths of that distress, Friends objected.

A Friend asked how can WPUK be a hate group? She knows people who give out their leaflets. It is a hate group because it spreads hate and fear through lies and half-truths.

If gender recognition reform is ever enacted, it will be merely symbolic. Few people who would not have transitioned otherwise will transition because of it. It will not affect the rules about women’s spaces and services. It will indicate that the law accepts us slightly less grudgingly. I Affirmed in a statutory declaration that I intended to live as a woman life long, and there is no serious suggestion that requirement might be withdrawn. I had to get a letter from a psychiatrist on a list of specialists confirming I am transsexual, and he charged me £100, which many cannot afford.

If my Equality Act rights were rolled back, it would also be symbolic: women would not be any safer, or feel safer. 40,000 mostly harmless trans people are no real threat to women, and the threatening ones could be better dealt with under existing law. But I will be the person every woman, as well as every man, will be entitled to despise. And one way of living out gender diversity will become more difficult, and oppressive gender stereotypes will gain more power.

I have worked hard to support anti-trans campaigners who are Quaker- to bring them together, and to help their voice be heard; to empathise with their concerns, and find common ground. I believe these Quakers should be heard in our discernment. I do this because I see in them the same discomfort with gender stereotypes that I feel myself.

And gender stereotypes are all-pervasive and oppressive. Friends should therefore support any way people have of subverting or escaping them, including transition.

A gender-free child

Anoush is being brought up gender-free. They can choose their gender later. At 17 months, they are a “lovely little human” who loves dolls but also motorbikes and machinery. Their parents are circus performers, who live on a house boat. They want their child to be who they are, not moulded by the unconscious bias of others into pink is for girls stereotypes. The grandmother found the child’s sex when she changed their nappy, but even other family members do not know.

Hooray! People want to know what genitals someone has so that they know what gender stereotypes to enforce. Even if they consciously desire to subvert such stereotypes and let the child be themself, they will unconsciously steer the child to “boy-things” or “girl-things”. That this is not happening in the first few years of life may be an invaluable foundation, even if when potty-trained and out in the world people will start caring what toilet they use, and nurseries will want to know. The stereotyping afflicts all of us.

So it was odd to read feminists opposing this treatment. Catherine Bennett in the Guardian strongly objected. People should be able to bring their child up free of gender stereotypes while acknowledging their sex.

Clemmie Millbank, in the Independent, also a parent of a baby of seventeen months, observed the gendered treatment given by her fellow Millennials, and the way her husband told their son not to be a wuss when he banged his head. Boys are rebuked for lashing out, but there’s a rueful “boys will be boys” tolerance which would not be extended to girls. Yet she says,

Every time we tell a little girl she’s pretty and a little boy he’s clever, we need to stop ourselves and consider our actions. The only way to tackle gender bias is by confronting it head on, not by hiding it.

Conscious incompetence here would be painful. Always you would ask yourself, am I cuddling this crying child because she is a girl? Am I not cuddling out of a rebellion against stereotyping when I really should? You tell someone to “grow a pair” and feel instantly ashamed.

Bennett claims that the parents are placing gender above sex. The gender-neutral extremist must be continually patrolling their own narrative, whereby gender, a matter of choice and chance, eclipses human biology.

I don’t think they are. There is nothing to indicate that they will alter the child’s body, or ignore their genitals later, just that they want to prevent gender bias now.

Sex is physical, gender is cultural. That is my observation, that of many others, and the basis of feminism opposing women’s oppression (and to a lesser extent men’s) by stereotypes. Actual humans do not naturally fit gendered boxes. So taking action to prevent forcing a child into those boxes is necessary. Some people feel the forcing is natural and appropriate – boys should be boys- some do it thoughtlessly.

I am sure Catherine Bennett would not buy a pink princess shirt for a toddler girl relative. She may even be able to cuddle crying children equally, whatever clothes they wear. Does she despise an unmanly man, or unconsciously reinforce femininity ever? The social pressure to do so is strong.

She is so hostile to concepts of gender neutral as a way to subvert the culture of gender, so hostile to trans people, that she cannot see the value of hiding a child’s genitals. It makes it impossible to stereotype! Is that not obviously a good thing, especially for a feminist?

No one fits the rigid gender boxes. Some people get along with them more or less. Some of us are so tortured by them that we must escape them by any means. We transition, or we change pronouns, or we self-consciously try to give off the signals of the other sex, to change others’ expectations and treatment of us.

None of this is acceptable to some feminists. Only their way is allowed. You can only subvert gender while being clear about sex. They even ally with the far right to oppose transition.

We have to accept all tools to subvert gender, and celebrate everyone fighting it. There are too many people who actively support stereotyping, who think boys should be that type of boy, made to man up, ashamed of showing emotion, and girls should be gentle and caring. Unless we are allies against that our cause is doomed.

A “Christian” site was confused, and in part progressive. This is the progressive bit:

As Christians we love the variety of gifts and personalities God has given to males and females made in his image. We do not want to restrict God, if indeed that were even possible, and narrowly define gender roles and behaviour in ways that are not supported in the Bible.

It seems they think stereotyping can be too restrictive. However they also think “gender is programmed into our DNA”. It is “deeply disturbing” to think Anoush might choose a gender identity different to the one their genitals indicate. But, how could Anouch do that, if it’s against DNA programming?

I wish the parents well. Anoush has a chance to find themself. It would save a lot of angst if everyone else had too.

“Inventing” trans children and young people

A new book claims that school books featuring trans children “fail child safeguarding and conflict with the law”. Unfortunately, there is not the expertise to back this up. “Inventing transgender children and young people”, edited by Heather Brunskell Evans and Michele Moore, is another attempt to inflame fears against trans children.

I know Dr Brunskell Evans. I have seen her bewildering trans people. “It’s ridiculous,” said a non-binary friend. “She claims you’re a danger and I’m mutilated.”

The Telegraph, a hard-Right publication, was delighted. Under the headline “Children being put at risk by transgender books that ‘misrepresent’ medical knowledge, academic claims”, its first paragraph blared out that “Children are being put at risk by transgender books in primary schools that “misrepresent” medical knowledge on puberty blockers, an academic has claimed”. Only later did it reveal that the “academic” was a “senior research fellow in creative writing”. How could that academic have any expertise on medical treatment for trans children? One such book, “Julian is a Mermaid” by Jessica Love, has just won the prestigious Klaus Fugges award for the “most exciting and promising newcomer to children’s book illustration”. It describes how a child dreams of looking like the spectacularly dressed women they see on the New York subway, and “his” grandmother helps them join the Mermaid Parade.

What else does the book say? Transgender children who undergo medical or surgical treatment risk “serious or irreversible damage”, says Dr David Bell. Who is he? The President of the British Psychoanalytic Society: an eminent man, but not one with particular expertise on endocrinology or paediatrics.  Of course there are risks to puberty blockers, but I prefer to trust experts, such as the paediatricians and clinical psychologist drafting the Australian Standards of Care and Treatment Guidelines for trans and gender diverse children and adolescents.

Transgender children are not invented. There has been transition since 500BC, as seen by prohibition in Deuteronomy. The reason children are allowed to transition is that they demand it. People say they knew something was wrong aged three, and what it was aged five, that they were of the opposite sex. This arises spontaneously from the child, usually resisted strongly by parents and wider society until the parents, unable to block the child’s desire, try to do their best for their child by investigating transition.

This polemic book claims to “demonstrate the considerable psychological and physical harms perpetrated on children and young people by transgender ideology”. Not ideology, but rather research and observation. No psychiatrist, no parent wants to harm children in their care. Social transition improves emotional functioning. Medical transition is extremely difficult to get.

Books like this cause bullying and make children seek medical treatment. If the authors think that medical treatment for trans-identifying children is a problem, they exacerbate it. Trans children know who they are. Social transition improves their lives. The campaign against trans children, and trans people generally, encourages social conservatives to noisily oppose transition and bully trans children. One author in the book encourages teachers to tell children that transition is not possible.

Faced with the hostility of the wider culture, school staff and pupils, trans children feel the need to prove themselves. They do this in the way trans people do, by seeking hormones and surgery. In a more child-centred environment, children could be nurtured by social transition. Those for whom it is wrong will realise that. Social transition is not like playing dress-up for an afternoon. Trans children will not respond to the bullying by developing “normally” according to their assignation at birth, but by withdrawing. When transition becomes impossible, transition becomes the only important thing in the world, threatening school work and emotional development.

Dr Brunskell-Evans is “co-founder of the women’s human rights campaign”, various book plugs proclaim, named as if the United Nations 1981 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women had never happened, or no one else campaigned for women’s rights. Her declaration is bizarre: it starts, “On the re-affirmation of women’s sex-based rights, including women’s rights to physical and reproductive integrity, and the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls that result from the replacement of the category of sex with that of ‘gender identity’, and from ‘surrogate’ motherhood and related practices.” Surrogacy and Trans are the only issues this campaign recognises.

Most people are not trans. I estimate 0.1% of the UK population is; finding space for one in a thousand people is very different from “replacing the category of sex”. Most people are cis, and most women don’t even notice trans people in real life.

This is where the hard right funding of anti-trans campaigning seeks to achieve: that the campaign against trans rights becomes a symbol feminists are cozened into fighting for, without achieving anything concrete for women, and progressives are divided. Someone who does not know a trans person is made to fear by an article claiming “children are being put at risk”, and progressive campaigning energy is diverted to punching down at harmless trans people.

Brexit- the public conversation

What can we do about no deal? Shout down our opponents seems to be a common answer. Inflame the heat, fear and anger, and make cooperation or even understanding more difficult.

Jacob Rees Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons, who has taken action to save his personal capital from the chaos of no deal Brexit and advised clients to do the same, was on a phone in. One caller was a doctor who had been involved in no deal planning, and said drug shortages might lead to deaths.

Mogg’s response: “I think it’s deeply irresponsible, Dr Nicholl, of you to call in and try to spread fear across the country. I think it’s typical of remainer campaigners and you should be quite ashamed, I’m afraid.”

Whom should we believe? I believe Dr Nicholl.  He has no axe to grind. He would not spread unjustified fear amongst patients for a political cause. I hope. And the radio programme is wonderful entertainment.

Six o’clock. I have just been swearing at the radio. A Tory MP has joined the Liberal Democrats. Alexander Johnson, the Prime Minister, has been lying again. After Tory governments have impoverished me, he risks my food supply and my hormones, which already have been altered.

Tories are not above racist election campaigns, and now there are reports that they plan a transphobic one. There are reports they have been polling Northern Labour seats, with working class electorates, to see if anti-trans propaganda, portraying Labour as pro trans, might win some votes. Who knows what adverts will appear on facebook?

Comment threads are poisonous. Consider the troll FrogLeg, whom I noticed alleging a no deal article was “project fear”. He uses short comments with no argument and lots of buzzwords: liberal elite, Remoaner, enemies of the people, EU superstate… Parliament will be flushed by the Brexit Party. Bring it on. Or people are fed up to the back teeth with carrier politicians and all their lies and tactics to thwart Brexit.

I hope we can get the Tories out, but am unsure a general election will achieve that with the right wing press- Times, Telegraph, Mail, Sun all against Labour and the anti-Tory vote possibly split. We need a new referendum to sort Brexit before an election because a Brexit election will be overwhelmed by insane nationalism.  I hope we can stop no deal, after which negotiations would become far more difficult.

Brexit taking note of the large Remain vote and the needs of Ireland or of British manufacturing industry was a fantasy, and so is the No Deal evocation of the Blitz Spirit. My father told me of seeing a plane shot down, probably killing men he knew, and of the shame of “Lack of moral fibre” when a man was too terrified to fly. War metaphors are all too apposite.

So I will no longer comment on Brexit threads unless I can be eirenic or original. These aims are so out of reach I may not comment at all. I like to write, and like up votes for the dopamine, and it is not good for me. I may write more on a paper diary.

Now we await the result of the House of Commons’ principled members trying to avert No Deal for the good of the country, against a government of psychopaths trying to engineer it to cement their own wealth and power.

Encounters at Greenbelt

I hugged a bishop. He agreed to wear a pronouns badge, when I explained what it meant. It is a declaration not so much that he is binary male, as an ally to trans and non-binary.

He understood about privilege, as a white man in leadership. He had a tour of the Supreme Court and took tea with the Lord Chief Justice, and it may even be a good thing for such different pillars of the Establishment to be in dialogue- yet revealed why he understood privilege when he said he was a “Grammar school boy made good”: seeing class privilege is his way into seeing white and male privilege. Yes. We English place every one on a precise pecking order, as he says.

I walked from the Shelter, and gatecrashed a conversation on the Second Amendment. The US Supreme Court decided the right to bear arms was as unlimited as the right to free speech- only about ten years ago. Yet we cannot say “That man is wrong. Kill him!” A woman joined the conversation and said but we say that all the time- and my understanding changed. Yes, but only a few people can choose the victim. She is a nun. She leads clowning workshops. I hugged her, too. I hugged lots of people, after meaningful conversations: at Queer Spirit I went up to strangers, asked for hugs, and usually got them.

I went to the Inclusive Church stall for more pronoun badges. I got my first at the Out stall. I wore three, one He, one She and one They, to stir things up. Had there been an It badge I would have worn that too. The woman there was a Quaker, and she said she had got them to change their Inclusion statement from “Our Statement of Belief”, which is Evangelical sounding,  to “Our Vision”. They don’t just let churches sign up, they go to work with churches to ensure the congregation is behind it, that the church has undergone metanoia, a Christ-inspired change in their way of being. No out-groups. The discussion can be a powerful moment for growth.

They pledge to challenge discrimination in the Church on grounds including gender and gender identity.

On to the United Reformed Church. I asked, and they said individual churches can decide to solemnise gay marriages. It’s a matter of church government- but the discussion leading to such decisions can be a powerful engine of growth and maturity.

In the Grove there was a Play for Adults workshop. We were told to visualise a tiny self, an inch tall, and imagine their adventures in the undergrowth. Some used this as a way into fantasy. I used it to enter mindful awareness of the growth and decay. Then she offered us choices. A friend said at his two year old’s birthday party the children were all playing separately, having not got the idea of playing together, and here we were, as adults, mostly playing separately.

I joined a person drumming with twigs on a log, and two others joined us. After the person said their name, and I am now unsure of their gender and assigned gender. I mention that. It’s unusual. It feels a little weird, and good.

My other time with a microphone was at the LGBT social, when I spoke to the group about becoming Quaker, and how proud Quakers are of the welcome they gave me.

Greenbelt affirmations

Taking the microphone and looking out over the thousand-member audience, I said, “I am wise. Listen to me.”

I am feeling powerfully affirmed right now. I have spoken before in conversation from my integrity, all of me united in a belief or intention. I check it is right and true then say it. As I do this more I become clearer.

Then there was the Queer Spirit festival, 16-18 August. At the Authentic Communicating workshop I talked of this, of the way of speaking from my whole self, and the facilitator addressed me, “Tell us the truth, O wise one”. It is hard to imagine such words without sarcasm, but he said them with utter sincerity. There I saw beautiful playfulness, and a profound shift in a man, shedding his introjects. I asked to be lifted and supported on nine pairs of hands, and was borne aloft. I could trust. Then we group hugged.

That night I left the big top at eleven, and dozily left my handbag in a toilet. I went to that workshop with no money, no house keys, no way of getting home, wondering if I could ask anyone to drive me there. We decided I could ask the festival to loan me enough for a taxi and the buses. At eight, no one had handed in my handbag but after the workshop someone had contacted the organiser, and I went to pick it up from the Faerie area. If there was anyone who would steal it at the festival, they were unlikely to be the one to find it.

I knew no one at Queer Spirit but started conversation easily, asking and receiving hugs. I noticed how forebearing we were with each other, anxious to please as if used to hurt and slights- as you might expect in an LGBT festival. I see it in myself and in queer friends.

Leaving Queer Spirit I resented the cost of the taxi to Nupton, the buses having been cut, but a man joined me and talked of Faerie, halving my fare. It is an alternative gay culture for men tired of shallowly pumping iron and using the right grooming products. He is spiritual but not religious, having had a harmful religious upbringing, and liked my line “I am rationally atheist and emotionally theist: I have a strong personal relationship with the God I do not believe in”.

Then there was the Quaker meeting. It was a Leading to hold it at Greenbelt, but my leading was not affirmed by my Meeting, who had told the Festival there was no one to organise the worship. It felt haphazard, and I felt unprepared. Yet after we had 110 in worship and I introduced it, emphasising the welcome enquirers should expect, I felt vindicated. My leading had been recognised by events.

Nadia Bolz-Weber talked of bodies, how people are ashamed of bodies and how we are fed false ideals which we cannot match. She told us to turn to a neighbour and say something we liked about our bodies. My neighbour had beautiful eyes, and said so. We were in a place, after three days of Festival, where we could say such things.

If women did not spend the energy fruitlessly chasing the beauty myth we could solve global heating.

I spoke into the microphone. I said how after transition I finally loved my body, its beauty and effectiveness, and of how people are also shamed about Gender, and how humanity needs to affirm soft men and powerful women, strong and gentle humans. I asked the speakers to affirm our gender in all its variety and contradictoriness. I got applauded. I am affirmed again.

Another woman said whenever she had an unpleasant experience her mother would ask, “What did you do to cause that?” Such shaming could make a child hide away completely, like a rabbit fearing all attention was predatory. She is in middle age recovering.

Another said as a trans man he wanted chest surgery, yet he also wanted to bear a child and breast feed- but not yet, maybe in six years’ time. How could he live with his body as it is, and all it means to others, in that tension?

I am feeling powerful. My working out my need heals others. Having valued my softness as strength when I saw it as weakness for so long, I can help others free themselves.

This pillar was marked “The wisest thing I ever heard was-”

Character, aptitude, value

I am not worthless, useless and hopeless, however much it seems that way to me. Embrace the evidence to the contrary!

Awesome,” she said, and I explained laboriously how only the bridge was my contribution. “Awesome bridge,” she said. People build me up, and I see how much I need it. That woman denied she was creative, and I sought to persuade her otherwise. I might say, you have had problems in your life: have you ever found solutions? Does that emerge as an insight which amazes and delights you, or leaves you quietly satisfied?

With a range of people from, say, Ranjana Srivastava, seeking to improve life and alleviate suffering, and Jeffrey Epstein happy to destroy people for his momentary gratification or to increase his power, I am at the right end of that range.

I am creative. I can be persuasive. I speak well. I write well. I make up stories of possibility. If I were to go back to the Turbine Hall I might take down the top of one of those towers for a source of bricks and either build a series of wee houses two bricks high or a wall across the table. Or I might be inspired by other work to do something else.

I am caring and supportive. I can be a good listener and find ways to build others’ confidence.

When I devote myself to a task I devote myself entirely. I spend myself- we spend ourselves, accepting damage or deterioration in the service of what we most want, as a woman may be incontinent of urine after pregnancy.

These manifestations of who I am delight me. I am most myself, being myself, acting as befits me. It is fitting and right. It is affirming and powerful.

I can be anxious, making mistakes in a hurry, or I can be composed and thoughtful, taking steps in order, making connections and understanding, inhabiting my power.

I am damaged. I do not know what I feel, often. That mantra helps:

I am here. This is. I am.

I take time to appreciate my surroundings, their beauty, solidity, value, fittingness which is bringing me into an appreciation of my own. If I notice I am behaving as if I am confused or anxious, that may indicate that I am confused or anxious. How have I been behaving? The feeling, brought into consciousness, may help me reassess my desires and actions. The feeling suppressed below consciousness makes me make mistakes, judge myself harshly, and be more stressed and inclined to withdraw, or be obnoxious.

My tactic of suppressing feeling helped me survive but in my adult self is weakness. The practice of mindfulness may bring me into my strength. It is liberating.

The self-concept, the imagined figure of who I imagine I ought to be, and the judgment, the idea that I am merely inadequate for not fitting it, are stripped away as I see who I really am now, respending in the moment to the actual situation.

This is particularly hard for a trans woman. We are fed an ideal of masculinity we cannot yet must fit, and seeing and valuing who we really are is a difficult task.

I am


of this. How can you recognise your blind spots, what you cannot see, behind your illusions, what is not real? The illusion touches my perception as reality would. It is hard work, climbing out of Plato’s cave.

This sentence could only be in a Russian novel (in this case, Life and Fate) Her soul filled with the sense of life that is humanity’s only joy and most terrible pain. Or possibly Intensity- reality feels intense, far more so than illusion.

That image again, of coming out of a dark, cramped corridor, steadily getting darker and smaller, into overwhelming light and colour which I could not bear. I thought of it as coming out of my withdrawing from the world, or out of my shrinking into expressing my charisma, and just now of turning from illusion to reality and sensing my feelings. It is all of these. I have always known I must learn to bear the brightness or die.

Howard Thurman

If I never feel confused, is confusion that terrifying emotion which I must always suppress below conscious awareness? If the distance between how things are and how they ought to be is so great that I cannot see how things are, being just confused, how can I do what I need to do? If my anger is always directed at myself- do better, try harder, keep going- how can I survive a world unless it is designed to fit me and support me? When do I realise that it isn’t?

I am wary of using Black experience as a way into my own as their oppression is greater than mine, except that mine matters too. I am a trans woman, conveniently available for anyone to punch down at, relieve their feelings on, use as a scapegoat or ridicule. We get screamed at, assaulted, killed by casual acquaintances or strangers, and painted as perverts or predators when any need is felt to justify that though often it isn’t.

So I read extracts from Howard Thurman, Black mystic and spiritual adviser to Martin Luther King.

“The stirring of the will of man to action, the dream of humanity, developed and free… is God.”

God speaks through my survival instinct and the occasional, fleeting desire I have to be equal, not to be that whipping-girl. I will not wrong others, and I will survive.

God lives in each person, we are each the outworking of God’s love, power, creativity and beauty, each hair on our head is numbered and God wills our flourishing- yes, even trans women.

The Black man, used by whites for the most menial work, lynched- murdered- by whites to keep all Blacks in a state of terror and subjection and satisfy those whites of their own righteous superiority, finds that in religious experience “I hear His Voice in my own tongue and in accordance with the grain in my own wood. In that glorious and transcendent moment, it may easily seem to me that all there is, is God.”

God is a real me, more real than I can conceive. This is not a matter of dogma but immediate experience, to be captured in feeling not prose or theory, perhaps to be glimpsed in poetry. Then I am my full glory as my part in God’s outworking of creation.

Thurman’s God and mine is transcendent, eternal, all-encompassing, and personal and intimate, caring for me like God’s child in self-sacrificing, motherly love. So, I will show myself the love God shows I am worthy of.

Christianity is an ideology of empire, for security and respectability for the strong and powerful, giving grudging “charity”, sometimes, to deserving outsiders but teaching us our obligations to our betters. This makes those betters feel good about themselves. No, God requires that we are brothers and sisters, equals. I claim my equal worth. God in me seeks not to serve or dominate but to hear and communicate.

Why do I call myself Christian when Christianity oppressed me? To create it anew!

I am a human being among human beings, not for anyone to categorise or judge as “a trans woman”, for no-one’s stereotypes classifications or perceived understanding- even my own. That is love of self in my incomprehensible beauty, a love worthy of loving others with. I am my part of Life, as you are. Each Christian encountering another Christian as an equal, a beloved fellow child of the loving Mother would be an example to all other people. “See how they love each other!” We would win souls for Christ.

Gender is as oppressive as race and we who do not fit gender stereotypes or are not served by them must come together. So I take Richard Rohr’s questions and apply them to gender:

Where in your life do you feel numb, shut down, dismembered, disrespected, or disconnected? What is your earliest memory of feeling this way? What events or circumstances do you believe gave birth to these experiences? What do you believe such feelings keep you from knowing?

What gender identities or stereotypes have shaped how you have come to know yourself as a person?

What views did your ancestors, elders, parents, or caretakers have about gender? How did their views impact you? In what ways were/are your views similar or different?

This is what to do with my anger, whether directed inward or outward- transmute it into a sense of self-worth: which becomes understanding, then love.