The fraud on the anti-trans campaigners

I never met an anti-trans campaigner whose ally I did not want to be. In the group, a woman said, “I’ve been called a ‘terf’,” and my heart sank.

I have heard the story so many times, with the same injustices. She is treated as a sex object, and may say how terrifying this can be if adult strangers come on to you when you are thirteen. Her intellect is devalued and ignored. She states her powerful resentment and her sense of injustice, and I am wholly in agreement. I delight when women stand up for their rights, and men stand up for justice. Society suffers if the talents of so many are sidelined.

And then their voice of grievance does not change as they tell of trans. She was a sex object, and what of all the girls who want to become men? She wonders if she were a little younger, if she would have been “sucked into the cult,” and had her breasts removed or had hormones to break her voice and grow body hair. She is a sexy woman with a beautiful body. What if it had been mutilated?

Well, I totally get the discomfort at the idea of breast removal. I like my beautiful breasts. But no-one has an operation before the age of 18, and few below 25. Waiting lists are too long. 2000 girls might be referred to the Gender Identity Development Service, but that is 0.03% of the girls in the country. Of those, GIDS refers none for operations, and only a few for puberty blockers.

Or, she says, “Women must have the right to say, ‘No’. Women’s boundaries should be respected.” And I think, well, yes, I agree, except she means she should have the right to say I can’t use a women’s loo or shop changing room.

And then the rant starts. What about women’s rights in prisons/sports/refuges? What about all women shortlists? What if a man wakes up one morning and decides he’s a woman? There are answers to all this, and they are not heard.

She is sure of her own righteousness, but her beautiful campaigning energy has been perverted from real injustices, such as the devaluation of her intellect, to blaming, scapegoating and persecuting trans people. She moves from stating real grievances to myths showing a disturbing lack of empathy and respect for trans people. She does not see the change of tone which is so obvious to me. Often, she shows a wilful refusal to understand us as human beings. Trans men to her are merely victims, trans women merely threat.

The campaigning shows no sense of proportion. On a “Keir Starmer Supporters” group on facebook, someone shared a Daily Mail article about the death and rape threats to JK Rowling. What can I do? Well, I share information, and respond as winsomely and persuasively as I can. JK Rowling said some pretty offensive things. Keir Starmer, by contrast, has been low-key but generally supportive, of trans rights. He said, “It’s not true that only women have a cervix”. A Keir Starmer Supporters group should listen to him. And death and rape threats are abhorrent, but many people receive threats. Which people are deemed entitled to our sympathy when threatened, and which are not? Why? For this, I was expelled from the group. It is not only that the group owner thinks I am wrong, she thinks I should not be heard. Just before expelling me, she introduced a new group rule against misogyny.

There are many places where anti-trans campaigners can radicalise each other and indulge in delicious shared righteous anger. Women have a right to Single Sex Spaces! JK Rowling has never said anything transphobic! We are not transphobic! We want our Rights!

And all that beautiful campaigning energy, rather than being directed at the patriarchy and rape culture is directed by the patriarchy, for the patriarchy’s purposes, against trans people.

So I want to be an ally to these women- against all the injustice, against rape culture, sexism, and patriarchy. And everyone would be better off if they left trans people alone. We are not their main problem.

The joyful, playful child

“Forgive me,” said Anna, “but you seem confused”. Well, yes. I have had a striking week. I wrote my love poem, which enabled me to say the words “I love you” to someone. Wednesday 5th I would read it in public.

Unfortunately, before that I was discussing my psychotic friend. He comes to Quaker zooms to rave. One of his delusions is how the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra is the perfect society. I wish he’d go to one of their concerts, proclaim his gospel, and get sectioned again. I wish he would realise he was ill and consent to the depot injections, but he believes he has unique spiritual truth to change the World, just like Licia did. He accepts he is hypomanic, and when he is less so he can have an initial appearance of profundity from all the Buddhist texts he quotes.

Then there was the BBC, explaining laboriously yet disingenuously that my complaints were without merit and Justin Webb did nothing wrong.

I read my poem in the Lovely Gathering. Jamie needled me a bit, and my barriers collapsed. I do not mind appearing ridiculous. That ship has sailed, I said- I have appeared ridiculous to some people since transition. But not like this. He asked if I wanted him as celebrant, and I asked if he could do the registration too. I would not want to have to go to the registry office as well. But, the barriers- I had not wanted to make claims about another, or potentially embarrass her. Jamie did not need a jemmy. He put an exploratory fingernail under my covers, and they exploded off. I felt exposed.

She wrote to me of my ethereal beauty, my blooming heart. I am grateful for the expressions of love from her deep integrity. And Thursday afternoon I spent some time wailing wordlessly and some time being listened to by my wise friend, who recommended howling.

I had given up hope that my sexuality might attract me to, leave alone unite me with, another human being and I am grateful that I now believe in the possibility. Friday afternoon I zoomed with a woman who has overcome huge challenges. She does herself down, and still I saw her humility is beautiful. She wrote to me of my generosity, receptivity, sensitivity, spirituality, thoughtfulness, beauty and desire to spread encouragement and love, and called me

a human daring to stand.

Tuesday at Morning Communion, which I experience at 1pm because of time differences, was striking. I was just feeling the feels. People would say something changing my view of what was being discussed, and my feelings changed with them. In order to hold these mercurial feelings, be present and conscious with them, I found my body flexing and stretching, tensing in different places. It was almost as much as I could bear. I thought I might look a bit weird but no-one said. I was pleased with this. I want to feel the feels and accept them, then I feel I will stop fighting myself and stand in my power.

I have been thinking of my honour, and one thing I want to do is keep any obligations into which I enter freely. So Friends asked me to do something, and I said yes, and I did not do it. I just did not respond when my fellow Friend involved contacted me. I did nothing for six months, and facing the prospect that the work was not done someone else was appointed. Then they asked me to do something else and I did not respond to the first email, or the phone message. I need to be able to say “No”, and I need my word to mean something. When directly asked I said “No”.

Another thing I want, passionately, is not to have my feelings just explode on show as they did on Wednesday evening. It makes me feel unbearably vulnerable and stupid. After, I hate myself for it. I need control.

I had an hour and 45 minutes with Anna the Samaritan on Friday morning. They did not seem particularly busy, and I had a long healing cry. Then I talked from my misery when I can only articulate words in a high wail. Then I talked from my Real Self, or whatever it is, when my voice goes higher than usual, I am fulfilling my needs telling my best understanding of truth and I feel frightened and vulnerable. I told of chasing Ulrika like a lost puppy, and how she used me to keep Luke on his toes, then chucked him away like a used tissue. I told of Jude’s girlfriend wanting him to make a man of himself, and how when they split up he was so much more relaxed. By the end I was more explaining to her than working things out for myself, so I stopped, and I have not felt the need to cry since.

F, to whom I said “I love you”, has been in touch and caring in a way making me feel cared for. I spoke at the Zoom Quaker meeting, when someone heard humility in my ministry and that felt true and fitting to me. Then there was the afternoon Quaker zoom where we addressed the question, “Who in your life enhances/encourages your connection with God, and how?”

I said I felt that God in me is when all of me is integrated and working together, and anything can either lead me towards that or drive me from it, and my attitude to it matters. So I welcome unravelling on Wednesday, making a fool of myself. I will learn from it.

I told the story of the grey corridor with doors to overwhelming light and colour. Jeannine had a new angle on it: the corridor more constrains me as I outgrow it. Ruth suggested I could open the door for a look, keeping in the corridor for safety.

So I began the lovely gathering with Emotion Detector.
Illusions are painfully shattered
Right where discovery starts
In the secret wells of emotion
Buried deep in our hearts.

What I wanted, more than anything, was to become that sane, well-boundaried person, who does not lose control like I did on Wednesday. And now, five hours later, I don’t.

The next Quaker question was, How do you hold people in the light? How do you believe that works? Well, it changes me. I think of another with love, and it enhances my capacity to love them.

Then I said words new to me, which felt true. I find loving important, and am good at it: the price is not knowing I am good at it, so striving to be better. Seeing Friends assent helps me believe this.

So now I know. The lesson I wish I had learned as a toddler, which my parents could not teach me, was that losing control was not the end of the world.

I would rather be in touch with my feelings and in control. And loss of control is not ideal, but OK. Outside the corridor becomes less terrifying.

Trans people in court

Since December, it is harder to be trans in an English court.

The Equal Treatment Bench Book is a 566 page guide for judges on how people appearing before them may be disadvantaged, and how the judge might mitigate their disadvantage. For example, it cites a study where mock jurors gave harsher punishments to fat people accused of crimes than thin people. Trans people are equal under the law, and the law should deal with what has been proved, not punish us for who we are.

There are two pages on naming systems. Mispronunciation is disrespectful, and a judge should take care to avoid it. The book explains different naming conventions. Judges should ask what is the personal name and family name. I am perturbed that there is a perceived need to tell judges not to use the term “Christian name”, but that may just indicate how comprehensive the guide is.

Judges should not reduce court users’ confidence in the court’s authority or impartiality, but act to counter how others’ prejudice may slant the administration of justice. There was a major revision of the Book in February, and an interim update in December, most of which was devoted to considering the rights of “gender critical” people against trans people.

Much of the advice on trans is designed to prevent someone in stealth being outed. This is problematic. Most people read me quickly. I am open about being trans. Yet I still do not want anyone else mentioning it unless it is entirely relevant. The judge can restrict reporting of the case if necessary. The Book quotes a senior High Court judge: “disclosure [of trans history] should not be permitted… where it is unnecessary and irrelevant to the issues”.

The book says terminology is shifting and uncertain, and some trans people may not want to be called trans, believing it irrelevant.

It is dispiriting to read in the February revision a long account of the discrimination we suffer, but I am glad judges might. The update added the Transactual trans lives survey 2021. 99% said they had experienced transphobia on social media, and I can’t see how anyone might use social media without experiencing transphobia. A TUC survey found half the trans respondents had experienced bullying or harassment at work, and 30% had been outed against their will. In a poll of 1000 employers, 43% said they were unsure if they would employ a trans person- that is, they openly stated they would consider breaking the law. The book also gives statistics on anti-trans hate crime, and suicide.

The book says nonbinary people are not protected, though it cites the case Taylor v Land Rover in the appendix on the Equality Act. As an Employment Tribunal case, that is not even a binding precedent for Employment Tribunals.

I would take issue with the President of the Supreme Court’s explanation of the traumas faced by trans people. It’s not “the overwhelming sense that one has been born into the wrong body”, it is a conviction that I am of the other sex, or a desire to be treated as or express myself as the other sex. Lady Hale refers to “the long and complex process of adapting that body”. That is surgical essentialism, and I deny it.

The Forstater case has done a great deal of damage. The Employment Tribunal decided her beliefs did not fulfil the fifth test: beliefs “must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others”. The Employment Appeal Tribunal disagreed. Much of the problem was that there was little evidence heard in the tribunal of the repellent nature of her beliefs. Other anti-trans campaigners express themselves freely on Twitter and there would be abundant evidence available of how ridiculous and abhorrent their beliefs were.

Because of the case, the update has made additions. It still says trans history is usually irrelevant. It explains that “revealing someone’s trans identity publicly can have serious adverse consequences on their life”. That’s not the issue for me. Calling me trans is like irrelevantly calling a Black person Black. It draws attention to the thing for which I face prejudice. So it is prejudicial. The book explains deadnaming “may be considered” highly disrespectful and may be inhibiting and humiliating to a witness. Formerly, it said deadnaming “is” disrespectful.

For the first time, the update claims a witness may have a “right” to misgender or deadname. The judge should establish this at the start of the hearing. The book gives reasons why a witness should not do this. The trans person may be stealth, may have a GRC, may not want to go to hearing if they would be outed. If trans status is public knowledge, there is less protection. Again, for me, being called a “man” in court would be humiliating, however many believe I am one. It calls the characteristic which has most affected my life, a worthless fantasy.

The example of a witness being allowed to deadname and misgender is problematic. A victim of domestic abuse or sexual violence may give evidence “in accordance with the victim’s experience and perception of the events”. But, when the witness gives evidence, the guilt has not been decided. To call a trans woman a man is prejudging the issue.

Deadnaming is like calling Muhammad Ali “Cassius Clay” to his face, indicating disrespect for his Islam and his right to self-determination. Deadnaming is insulting. A victim should be able to use the Accused’s real name, unless she has a prejudice which affects her reliability as a witness. For example, the pre-existing hatred and revulsion Maria MacLachlan showed for Tara Wolf made her misgender her.

The update explains “Gender-critical” as a belief that sex is immutable and binary, and that including trans women in the definition of women undermines protections for cis women. It often includes a belief that trans people are irrational and violent, but that is not stated. It says the belief is protected even if it offends trans people and allies, unless “they propose to destroy the rights of trans people”.

The Appendix on the Equality Act explains the Forstater case, though recommends reading it. The phrase given for an unacceptable gender-critical belief, is that it “sought to destroy the rights of a trans person”. That is helpful. Many who would call themselves “gender critical” want to roll back trans rights, which are robust in law. The addition explains that beliefs are different from behaviour. Misgendering may still be harassment, whatever the perpetrator believes.

Some additions are otiose. “The effect of the GRA does not impose recognition of the acquired gender in private non-legal contexts and it cannot rewrite history”. Well, no. Lots of people think I am a man, and I don’t want the courts to intervene unless they do something particularly objectionable about it. But the effect of the sentence is to deny reality. I am a trans woman. I deserve respect as a woman.

The update adds an explanation that “Some people feel strongly that they do not wish to be described as ‘cisgender’ or ‘cis’.” Such a belief will usually be part of a set of beliefs including repellent prejudice, which is not worthy of respect in a civilised society, but it has got into the Bench Book. I suggest people use “Non-trans” instead.

Explaining the Equality Act, the February revision said the term “transsexual” was considered unacceptable. The update adds “by many people”. Well, if there is some comprehensive legal definition of sex and gender made, then I am transsexual, and my sex is female. The psychiatrists said so, after all.

The update is a response to the Forstater case. It is just part of the slow chipping away at trans rights and respect for trans people which the right wing culture war is achieving.

Trans in 2021

In the UK in 2021, trans legal rights remain robust, though increasingly under attack. Nonbinary as well as binary trans are protected from discrimination. From the moment we decide to transition, trans women expressing ourselves female are entitled to use women’s services. In its code of practice issued in 2011, the Equality and Human Rights Commission put strong restrictions on the right to exclude someone because she is trans, including that it should be case by case- being entitled to exclude one trans woman does not mean a service can exclude all.

Some facts are relevant. Sex is real. Without sexual reproduction the species dies out. I don’t have a uterus, and have never menstruated. And, trans is real. People have transitioned for millennia over many different cultures. We are a harmless minority, and the way the Labour government chose to integrate us, by giving us a right to be treated socially in our true gender, helps us to flourish. The government followed the lead of the European Court of Human Rights.

There is no such thing as “gender ideology”, and there is no harm to women from including trans women. Attempts to claim crime statistics on women should exclude trans women are merely silly. But fearmongering and hatred are normalised, in the BBC, Guardian and New Statesman as well as the Times and Daily Mail. Now the Women and Equalities Committee of the House of Commons calls for a legal definition distinguishing sex from gender, and that has no purpose but to say that because trans people change gender and not sex, we should be excluded from “single-sex spaces”. That would turn our lives upside down.

We might still be tolerated, in practice, in women’s loos, but we would be even more likely to be misgendered and abused, and that would extend to gender nonconforming people. Whatever the law, whatever the attitude in the wider culture, we will always be able to find communities where we can be ourselves. Quakers have spoken out about our need to welcome trans people (pdf). I also have the Lovely Gathering.

Daily, we read of more hostility. JK Rowling is fatuously but angrily claimed to be “cancelled” even as yet another fantastic beasts film slouches towards us. The reporting is skewed. I am not particularly familiar with the Equal Treatment Bench Book, but it helps judges treat vulnerable people according to their human rights. A thief should be punished for their offences, taking into account all mitigating factors, and not for who they are- trans status, colour, gender. So trans people are treated as belonging to our presenting gender, so that we have less reason to believe the court is against us from the start.

The change in this revision is the belief that some witnesses might have a reasonable expectation of misgendering us. The example given in The Guardian is of a husband who assaults their wife and subsequently transitions. That is, they report the tale of the Violent Trans, even though we suffer more violence than we inflict. The Guardian report suggests the new thing is that judges should use our preferred pronouns, even though it has been like that for years. I checked the February 2021 edition, and the guidance on treating us in our true gender was there, but not the permission to misgender.

Tara Wolf‘s case showed a judge asking hostile witnesses at least to use neutral pronouns, in a case he said would not have been brought without media interest in a trans v terfs narrative. This is another example of emphasis on supposed rights of those who object to us, such as cis women sharing a building with trans women in prison.

Transphobia is organised and amplified in Britain. And we have allies. I love Tom Daley’s Christmas message. With hate against minorities managed for political ends, gay people should know that if you say nothing, they come for you next. And always the demonisation, as if quiet, gentle trans people were angry, oppressive and violent, and women were rightly frightened; as if the problem of violence against women would be solved if all the trans were excluded.

People will continue to transition. In 2022, more trans people than ever before will express themselves as their true selves, finding it just too painful not to.

Medical services for trans people

The parliamentary committee are not our friends, and have recommended keeping trans medical bottlenecks at the moment when trans medical care could open up. They recommend more gender clinics, when gender clinics should be shut down.

Trans is easy to recognise. Trans men are people assigned female at birth who are convinced that they are men, want to be treated as men, or want to express themselves as men. They may want bodily alteration to appear more clearly to be men, to themselves and to others. Trans women go the other way. We know who we are.

That settled conviction is in some way different from those mental illnesses which divorce one from reality. I don’t understand how, particularly, but my understanding of myself as a woman is different from my friend’s schizophrenic daughter’s belief that there is an electronic device in her head which enables the Government to know what she was thinking. My desire to express myself female is more like a gay man’s desire for a particular male partner- incomprehensible to some straight men, but not “insane” or “psychotic”.

The committee say there are huge waiting lists. 13,500 trans people were waiting as of January 2020, before covid. Their evidence was a BBC report. The report’s figure came from Freedom of Information requests to each gender clinic, but some figures date back to July 2019 and the committee heard evidence that lists have increased since then. One clinic’s waiting time was increasing by five months each year, even before covid.

A trans person should be able to go to their GP and say that they are trans, and get a prescription for hormones. If the trans person understand that hormones may reduce their fertility and sexual response, that should be enough. The GP might want a psychiatrist to make absolutely sure that the patient was not psychotic, but should be able to check that themself. They might not like the idea of a healthy testicle being amputated, but they should accept that orchiectomy is beneficial, just as they should accept that abortions are necessary.

The trans person needs hormones, hair removal and speech therapy for women, and psychological support for the transition, which can be the most stressful experience in a person’s life. They may not need medical treatment at all- if a trans person wants to transition without threatening their fertility they should be able to do so.

So NHS England funding the Royal College of Physicians to develop education in gender dysphoria medicine is a backward step (report, para 194). Physicians, medicine, not surgery. These physicians would have the boring task of giving hormone prescriptions to patients who asked for them.

In Wales, there is the germ of a new path. There are around 70 GP “clusters”, and any GP who wants can train to be the lead on gender identity within the cluster. Cat Burton from GIRES gave evidence that most people approaching their GP just want to talk to someone about dysphoria arising from presenting in their assigned gender. They might not transition socially. They might just take hormones. Whether the “tiny minority” who have surgery is a small proportion of those who transition, or of those who approach their GP whether or not they transition, is unclear from the report. How Cat knows and who she asked, whether there was a survey and how systematic it was, is not clear from the report. I had thought trans men needed chest masculinisation to transition socially.

I would love to know how many more people talk to their GP about dysphoria, than transition. That would show how terrifying transition is, because of all the prejudice.

However, the Committee recommends more “trained and specialist clinicians”, para 197. They would keep the bottlenecks, even though they admit the new pilot clinics cannot make surgery referrals (para 191) and cannot reduce the waiting lists.

If there was the political will, the NHS could cut the surgery backlog by temporarily reporting private surgeons who perform the operation across the EU.

The committee found trans people have difficulties accessing primary health care. Some GP practices make difficulties over recording correct name and gender. A trans man with a cervix still needs smear tests. Getting them is a computer problem, but the NHS should be able to sort that.

Michael Brady, national adviser for LGBT health, said GPs needed training in order to be “more comfortable” using correct pronouns and managing trans patients (para 204). In other words, GP practice is filled with prejudice.

The committee found that LGBT people are more likely to be mentally ill, but there is insufficient mental health care and GPs might seek mental health support from GICs, though they do not give it. Psychiatrists treating for other conditions challenge trans people’s gender identity.

After the LGBT consultation in 2017, the government committed to an LGBT action plan rectifying the problems it identified. The committee found the Johnson government has gone back on this. Liz Truss confirmed that, para 218. She said she was working on banning conversion therapy instead, as if doing both were impossible.

The committee considered nonbinary recognition. The government and EHRC said it was too difficult. There were complex practical consequences for public life. The LGBT action plan had committed to seeking evidence on nonbinary recognition, but even that had not been done (para 225). The committee was reduced to demanding the government explain what difficulties might prevent nonbinary recognition, but since ministers refused to appear to give evidence, that recommendation is unlikely to be followed. The committee called on the EHRC to research the area, but with Lady Falkner, Akua Reindorf and others on its board this is unlikely.

While there was a majority on the committee for all these restrictions on trans rights, anti-trans campaigner Jackie DoylePrice voted for them to be even more restrictive. Her constant ally was Phillip Davies, men’s rights activist and anti-feminist MP.

A better life in 2022

How may I improve my life next year? I see the fragility of how I have organised my life, and have to see the blessings of it as it is. What do I desire, and how may I achieve it?

A velleity is a desire too weak to act on. I found the idea amusing. I have always had a velleity to try the various human approximations of flying- hang gliding, paragliding, parachuting- but never have, and now think the reduced elasticity of middle age means I never will. And, well, so what? I have other sources of excitement, joy and beauty. I can imagine the terror and exultation.

Now velleity feels like a threat because I do not recognise when something is a desire, and I will act on it, or a velleity, and I will not. I lack motivation. Velleity seems like genuine desire. I shock and disappoint myself. I find what I want when I see what I do, or avoid.

I did not know what I wanted, because of my upbringing. I was taught to find my desires and feelings shameful and threatening, and they became unconscious. I have only named my desire to hide away and not be seen in the past decade, in a process of self-discovery and self-acceptance I journal here. I hid first in a myth of conventionality which better fitted my parents, who were forty years older and conservative, than my generation. Then I hid literally. I go out as little as possible.

Over my suppressed desires I constructed a fantasy of who I ought to be, and what I ought to want. I believed that was who I was, and what I wanted. Hence the difficulty of spotting what is velleity. I wondered if I could construct rules about obligations helping me to motivate myself to, say, reply to that email. I would be adopting rules others live by and recommend, but it would be my choice to adopt them, and then I should stick to them. They would be my guide.

I want community and connection, and a chance of contributing. In one Quaker group, possibly another, I do. In my local meeting Friends have given to me generously, and I have mostly just received. I might use moral argument with myself. So they asked me to do something, and I did nothing about it, to my Friend’s surprise and measurable loss. They asked me something else, and I have not replied. I could name stinginess and hypocrisy in me, or think of exculpation, and the words don’t help. Conscious me contemplates unconscious me, wanting to understand.

I also want to know my capacity. If I cycle thirteen miles in the morning, I might not want to do much else but read or watch TV for the rest of the day. As well as motivation issues I have problems around the amount of energy I have. I usually have a sleep in the afternoon. I want to cycle because I want to keep physically fit. I came to accept how I enjoyed aspects of it, and found other aspects unpleasant, so I might lie in bed thinking I want to cycle and then get up at lunchtime, not having cycled. I found my conflict between an inner slavedriver and an inner protector, cycling.

I don’t know I am exhausted until I conk out. Again, this is from my upbringing.

How to get to know these things- how am I, in the moment? What do I want? What should/could/will I do? I find sitting in silence helps, though finding out has to cut through so much, it is a slow process. I built up such a forest of self-protective illusions through sustained trauma that my desires remain elusive to my conscious self- even as I act on them, and even achieve them.

I have found a way to explore my desire for submission, which I could not have named before I was forty. I am beginning to explore things most people explore pretty thoroughly in their teens and twenties, and I have not. So I am reacting like a giddy teenager. Through my parents’ shame, through shaming in the culture which treats my kind as a laughing stock, and through deep internalised repression something which has only caused me misery is finally bringing pleasure, and I have intense mercurial feeling, delight at finding it, rage at missing it, so that I have been crying thinking of writing this. And I am contemplating another human being in amazed delight and thinking, who is she? What will nurture her?

Nontheist words for God within

I am a Quaker, at least a liberal, unprogrammed Quaker. I know that sitting in silence has value. I know that a business meeting seeking “God’s loving purposes,” and together agreeing a minute, has value.

I believe I am an evolved animal in a material universe. My cosmology has no room for a creator spirit outside time, in some way inspiring Ministry. Consciousness and inspiration are manifestations of brain tissue.

I believe in common humanity. Just as cats have an instinct to hunt, so we have instincts which mould the way we form communities, which are innate though affected by culture. If a lion could speak we could not understand it, but we can learn to understand any human being.

I know the experience of being moved to speak, of words coming from my unconscious, and see why they seem divine. I see others having similar experiences, and value what they say. I accept Carl Rogers’ concepts of the organismic self, a life form fulfilling its needs as a social being, and a self-concept, an understanding of self which is less than the whole.

What speaks when I minister? I muddle along with Quaker words from when people believed in the Creator- the inner light, God within. I am influenced by the idea of critical realism. We have senses and brains attuned to meet our needs, not to know objective truth about the real world. So there is a real world, but it is unknowable. We only guess about it. I cannot know the truth about the world or myself, but with application I can approach it more closely.

I am a human being with conscious, conventional ideas about who I am, what I ought to like, what I ought to be, and underneath an unconscious which needs society to survive and is strongly communitarian. Sitting in the silence, the unconscious becomes conscious.

Spiritual Quaker concepts of “inner light” mould my understanding. I believe the conventional, conscious self-concept is an untrustworthy guide, and that beneath, in my unconscious, is a loving, beautiful- something. If I let the Something guide me, I will live better. I desire eudaimonia.

I am trans, and so have a particular experience of “god within”. Like many trans women, I fought hard to make a man of myself, always feeling myself inadequate. When I first perceived God within, she was feminine, and so terrifying, tearing down my fake manliness. She did not fit my self-concept at all. So I have more contempt for the conventional, conscious self-understanding than someone whose self-concept fits their real self better. But self-concepts rarely entirely fit the whole human. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus said: “When you undress without being ashamed and take your clothes and put them under your feet like little children and trample on them, then you will see the son of the Living One, and you will not be afraid.” The self-concept is filthy rags which do not cover our nakedness, a cracked cistern which holds no water, an idol.

Behind the rightness or wrongness of things, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

My sexuality also seems relevant. I have a need to surrender, to open up like a flower to the right, complementary person. It seems to me that a God within a human who is fulfilled by surrender would be different to a God within a human blessed with complementary qualities.

Rhiannon Grant says the term “inner light” is problematic in a society dominated by white privilege, and calls on nontheist “poets and prophets” to create new language to express our perspectives. Here are the words I have used to myself, in attempting to understand that which is within.

The Something

There is “Something inside so strong”, but my conscious mind, with its conventional ideas, cannot know it. And I do not fully trust it. 1 John 4:1 tells us to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God”, and Quakers test our concerns in meeting. I need the help of my Friends to know my leading is right, though sometimes I will go with my leading though no Friend supports me. It is- Something. I do not always want to bind it by referring to its attributes, which I do not fully understand. A more precise word might mislead me. This fits apophatic theology, approaching a God too great for me to know.

The Vulnerable bit

That was what I called it when I first perceived it. “I”- here, the word means my conscious self. That conscious self thought it was the whole of me, the whole of this physical being or process, and then it perceived something more, something apparently vulnerable, hurting, crushed, which nevertheless had the strength to come to light, like seedlings, apparently so small, soft and weak, “take hold on the loam, acquire the air”. The “seed” is Isaac Penington’s metaphor.

Vulnerable, feminine, despised by my self-concept of manhood. It is a trans experience; but the idea of the “self-concept” differing from the organismic self shows that none of us completely match our Seed, and have crushed it below consciousness. Yet it makes itself heard.

The Real me.

Behind convention and introjected ideas of who I ought to be, there is a Real me. Again, trans ideas influence this: I am really female despite my male appearance. Psychologists find humans malleable, able to fit their circumstances and able to rationalise fitting, so as to be comfortable with it.

I know I can speak from my integrity, which is hard-won. I have written of my recent experience of revealing God within.

Given that we are organic evolved beings, the world is unknowable, unpredictable and weird. So why not personify it? I am toying with the idea of using the word God for the consequences of human actions. We warm the planet. Lytton in British Columbia reaches the hottest temperature recorded in Canada, and the next day is incinerated by God’s wrath. The oceans absorb CO2 from the air, by God’s mercy. We are God’s hands.

Words which speak truth to people will be adopted.

Gender Recognition report

The report of the Women and Equalities Committee on Gender Recognition (GR) Reform strongly condemns the government. They say the refusal of ministers to properly engage with their enquiry is “inexcusable” (Recommendations, para 6). The Government Equalities Office (GEO) delay in responding to the GRR consultation “exacerbated tensions” between trans people on one side, and trans-excluders and anti-trans campaigners on the other, but also “caused real distress” to many trans people (Recommendations, para 4).

However Liz Truss (para 64) has indicated she will ignore the report, saying Continue reading

Joining the women’s sharing circle

I want to be here. I don’t want to be here if you want me to go. How might I fit, here? Could I just be part of the group, or do I change it?

Am I a woman? This is who I am. Presenting male was unbearable. I am a woman if your definition of the word includes me, so I could be a man, a woman, both or neither, depending on what you think the words mean. Words do not fit reality, but they mould our understanding of it. If I am not a woman, I am at least a trans woman: I can be no other. I would rather “look like that, all the time”, facing prejudice and derision, than move through the world disguised as a man.

Being a woman is physical and cultural. I have not ovulated, and I never will, but I had synthetic progesterone for a time, and experienced glorious highs and terrifying lows on it. I had a conversation just after transition when I thought, as a man talking to this man I would top his story, and as a woman I did not have to, which felt freeing, at first, then oppressive. This man knows it is for him to speak, explore his opinions, show off his knowledge, wisdom and experience, and for me to listen: to be a mirror in which he sees himself reflected, rather than a whole human being.

The value of the women’s circle is that women can find their own voices without the weight of male privilege shutting them up. In mixed groups, the unconscious expectation of the men produces an echo in the women from long habit. Women and their concerns are devalued. Here, women can free themselves.

I presented male for 35 years. I had a voice. I was expected to use it. But I too was silenced, so suppressed that I did not say anything from my true self, only from a “real man” mask. I worked so hard at being a real man, not letting the mask slip, always feeling inadequate, and then the real me broke through and I had to liberate her. My voice- if only a trans woman’s, not really a woman’s- is not the man’s voice I was taught to imitate.

A man might see the weight of privilege, and encourage a woman to speak, in order to get to know her as a person, or out of respect for her personhood. Even if I were joining in the work of encouraging and enabling each woman here to find her voice and be celebrated for who she is, would I be seen to do it as a man- as a game, or as a gift the man could take back at any time?

I would certainly not want to be the half-man whose privilege you could practice challenging because I would give way, so that you could claim your power and personhood in the world outside the group.

Instead I want to be one of you, a sister helping sisters find their voices, equals celebrating each other and so being freed to be ourselves.

Possibly my residual manhood, things in my appearance, mannerisms and voice, make me appear so much a man to you that the dynamic of the women’s group seems lost. And, when any new person joins the group there is a new dynamic. Please do not be too quick to attribute the change, here, now, to some masculinity in me, and call it a loss. All women have some masculinity in them. When a new woman joins the group you have to get to know her.

I am an asylum seeker here, not a colonist. I do not want to take control, but to fit in, and contribute. I am nervous because I am different. I hope tensions in the group can be explored and worked through, bringing us together. We gain when we see how we are different from each other, as well as how we are the same. I hope I can come into the beautiful thing you have created, and help you build it into something more beautiful.

Transphobia everywhere

Adam Phillips is a fascinating writer. Surely an editor should have red-lined this: “if we can’t let ourselves feel our frustration – and, surprisingly, this is a surprisingly difficult thing to do”. I have been thinking about this repetition, which however I analyse it I cannot make mean anything. Possibly the value is making the sentence memorable, about finding inconvenient emotions difficult to feel, so getting the lesson over. I know emotions I find threatening can remain unconscious, though still affecting me, and someone who did not know that might be brought to a halt by this apparent solecism, and so consider its message, and possibly admit it.

I am reading “On Wanting to Change”. As I want to change, I feel this erudite therapist might prompt me in useful directions. And then I find this sentence: “Converts are like transvestites: they disguise something the better to display it.” I could think of female impersonators, or drag queens, or even alleged fetishists who suffer no gender dysphoria at all- some category for the “transvestite”, so I could say, oh, he does not mean me- but I am not sure he would make the distinction. Would he think me an exhibitionist? I walk the streets with my real self on show, which most people have the modesty and discretion not to do.

Would he think me ridiculous or disgusting? As a therapist, he would see the full ridiculousness and surprisingness of people, and still find some motivation to spend time with them- the fees they pay, or dispassionate interest, or even perhaps a desire to make them better.

I have been paying attention, as I feel it might benefit me, and I am caught short by a reminder of my vulnerability and the contempt, distaste or political hostility some feel for people like me. This is a complete pain.

I had been thinking how I want to follow current affairs, in the hope that I might influence them, by protest, canvassing, blogging. But if I read the Guardian, or New Statesman, or listen to BBC news, I may at any time be brought up short by the Trans is Bad article, or a throwaway Trans is Bad comment. The New Statesman had no Trans is Bad article last week, which is a mercy, but I was reading Rachel Cunliffe’s views on Azeem Rafiq, nodding in agreement and seeing new angles through her eyes, when she rewrote history about JK Rowling to make that transphobic aggressor appear like a victim.

Does Cunliffe believe Rowling was a victim? Did she not read Rowling’s screed, in which she weaponised her experience of domestic violence to preach hatred of trans people? Has she just forgotten the screed itself, only remembering what haters claiming victimhood wrote about it?

Ideally I would want to read Cunliffe’s views of Azeem Rafiq, which help me understand, and might help me persuade others, without being reminded that I am a pariah simply because of being trans.

I read Rebecca Solnit, whom I admire, asking for donations to The Guardian, which I value, which has worthwhile journalism on pollution, the climate crisis, and tax havens, and thought, yeah, but it’s full of transphobia. Then I read Rebecca Solnit on Donald Trump, with a line about reading books being better. So I started reading Adam Phillips.

I could turn to facebook. There I might find encouragement and solidarity, and express it, but there I read that Richard Dawkins has tweeted that his followers should sign a transphobic hate screed. I knew Dawkins was a transphobe, and that real feminists might find him problematic, and still I find this a blow. Our enemies are so powerful, and always getting stronger!

At the recital on Saturday, the older woman sitting behind me started a conversation with me, and remarked on how weird it was that I stripped down to a short sleeved shirt in November, as if she had never heard of hot flushes.

Wherever I go, whatever I read, I will find reminders that people I admire and want to like find trans, and therefore me, repulsive, ridiculous, or threatening. I cannot escape. As far as I can tell, it is almost like being Black, in kind if not in degree. Perhaps the answer is acceptance and Love. I would become fully open to my feelings, however threatening, and admit the full horror, pain and fear I feel at the thoughtless or carefully constructed anti-trans idea. Then I would pass on. I would accept the thing I cannot change. It might be better than being tied in knots of resentment.

The World is not as it should be. How may we change it?