MP on self-ID

My MP is not interested in trans issues. I feel disrespected. He takes two weeks to even pass on my concerns. Then I asked to see him, he took eighteen days to respond, ignoring that request. He will pass on my concerns again.

On 5 March, I wrote,

The Scottish government has now completed its consultation, but the English consultation has not yet started. When will it start? Now, it is an issue, with the papers printing endless stories about trans people, many in a negative light. They bias the argument against us by picking inconsequential stories and giving them undue prominence. A small but vociferous group of feminists violently objects to trans women. When people say trans women like me as a threat, they may provoke violence against me: if they see me as a threat they feel justified in defending themselves against me.

There is a tiny number of GRCs issued, 4712 to September 2017. We are a tiny group of people, but we are a symbol in many people’s minds for many feminist or culture-war issues. I want not to be noticed, because I fear violence.

I feel that when the consultation is completed, the passions will subside slightly. People will go on to debate other things. Until it is completed, now self-ID has been proposed it is a live issue. The more people get radicalised around it, the more danger I am in.

Will you put my concerns to the relevant authorities?
Will you find out what is causing the delay, and when the consultation might commence?
Will you speak out for self-ID, and against the fear-mongering and rabble-rousing against trans people like me?

On 20 March Tom wrote to Baroness Williams of Trafford, who responded on 23 April. “I am sorry for the delay in my responses,” but not for the delay in the consultation. The Government remains committed to taking action to remove the barriers faced by transgender people. What action? Discussions are ongoing about the content and timing of the consultation… we are continuing to engage with a wide range of stakeholders… including transgender, LGBT and women’s groups, to understand better what they want from the consultation.

I quoted this to a civil servant who said it means “kick it into the long grass”. Tom himself ignored my questions, just sending the response to me on 25 April. So I wrote to him again:

That letter does not address my concerns. In particular, why is a consultation promised for Autumn 2017 in July 2017 still not launched? So, how long will this pre-consultation “engagement” last?

And you- have you familiarised yourself with what self-ID means? It is a minor administrative change which only affects trans people. Will you speak out against rabble-rousing against trans people?

Can I see you about this?

No. Well, he does not propose how I could see him. He is encouraged by the commitment to equality, and hard work is underway to build a society that celebrates and benefits from the talents of everyone. No, actually, hard work is underway to set us against each other by creating hostile environments for immigrants, benefit claimants, and now trans people. The consultation, to be published in due course Ha! will aim to relieve the bureaucratic and medical burdens for those who want to change their gender… and reduce the stigma faced by the trans community.

He has written to the Minister for Women and Equalities, not Justine Greening who announced the consultation in July last year, nor Amber Rudd her successor, but Penny Mordaunt.

The UK is a world leader for transgender rights, he says. No, actually, it is behind Malta and Colombia, which have self-ID.

The hostile environment is for immigrants and benefit claimants. Rather than paying fair benefits to people in need, the government spends more on sanctions, often unjust, arbitrary decisions taking benefits away and causing the rise in need for food banks. Sanctions cost more than they save. The government’s cruelty costs money. David Davies MP is a backbencher, a mediocre man who fails, usually, to stir up hatred, but this time is working hard with particular feminist groups. What are they doing for transgender equality? Nothing. Anyway, in March next year with Brexit our human rights will end.

Heaven in London

Trans women don’t like each other very much, certainly not in real life. If there was a group of us we would all be staring at our shoes periodically hissing “Stop it, you’re embarrassing us”. In the tube the day before there had been a poster advertising “Photography on the Edge” with a picture of a trans woman or drag queen, looking not very happy. Then there was one on the Underground platform, at least 6’6″ tall, in a light summer dress, with a manly tattoo on her arm- rather gorgeous, actually, that unapologetic “I am here,” with a slight hardness, I thought, as sometimes people would notice her. I scuttled away, frightened that they would read her then notice me.

I turned the corner by the east end of St Paul’s, and the scent of the blossom hit me with insistent beauty. I paused to enjoy it, but even though I stood still in the place where I had first smelled it, the smell was still lessened. It had overpowered me for a moment, and then the sensation was gone though I tried to make it last. Just the way the air currents were, or the blossom, or even my own nerve cells.

It was a beautiful sunny day and I sat in the dappled half-shade of a tree in front of Tate Modern, listening to the saxophonist in a wheelchair. He’s good. The tide was out and I could go down on a sandy beach. Then I saw you and stood for a long close hug. I took in your style- necklace and two pendants on separate chains, flowers embroidered on net over skirt over sloppy jeans and trainers. Unique. We went to the abstract art and photography exhibition, and admired a Kandinsky, excitedly. We stimulated each other, seeing each part of it together, how it was made and how it showed movement and stillness in balance. The alarm sounded, insistent, and people wandered, compliant but unconcerned, to the exits. Outside, the man in the wheelchair had a harmonica and was joined by another saxophonist in a tight twelve-bar blues, improvising in dialogue within the structure of the form. We waited until the crowd had dissipated, then walked back in.

In The Last Battle, Jill Pole and the dwarves all go into the stable, which Jill finds is the gate of Heaven. She sees it, beautiful countryside, the foot-hills of something more wonderful, but the dwarves think they are in a smelly old stable. So she picks flowers for them to smell, and they say, Why are you pushing mouldy old straw in our faces?

We sat in the shade, in the warm air on the fifth floor balcony, looking over Thames to the cathedral. These shapes, the bridge, the river, could be a Kandinsky: looking at art and making it has taught you to see. I told you my poem, you said I should be remembered for it, and I was abashed, saying there is such an abundance of talent about.

I am starving. I need this friendship. This- this process, this creature, is Beautiful. I affirm that. I know it and I can say it, because it is true, yet I cannot say “I am beautiful”- though I can say “I am trussed up”. I am trussed by my fears and illusions. I need this friendship, not to be a momentary scent of blossom but growing the flowers, the work to know and be known, talking of the weather and politics as well as of such high-flown, real things.

We agree we are in Heaven. Seeing that trans woman, unapologetic, unashamed, is heavenly. How strong she is! Yet it could also be mouldy straw, the fear I felt of discovery. And the scent of the flowers, a moment of delight comes and goes and my efforts at rediscovery cannot lure it back. If I know this is a world of abundance, and such delights are quotidian, never the same and endless in succession, I am happy enough to move from one to the other; and if I feel tantalised by the aroma, teased and not satiated, it is hell. Even in this lovely day of the best of company in the beautiful places I am tantalised, and the next day, freakishly colder as I cycle, cold, in strong wind to see Richard the contrast depresses me.

The knack, or trick, might be Fear and Love. If I love the Earth it becomes Heaven, if I fear it it is Hell, but that cycle ride was difficult in the wind. I starve for beauty and connection.

I walked to the centre of Swanston from the Station, and Umar came up beside me and started talking. His job is making model aeroplanes, then putting them in wind tunnels to test their aerodynamics. Wind tunnels and computer models complement each other. I was happy enough to talk. I said I was going to the supermarket, he to the bank, and as he got there he asked if we could meet again- “Just as friends,” he said, plaintively. I thought about it. I decided against, in fear and mistrust, and am not sure I decided correctly.

“Trans ideology” and transphobia

I knew there was a problem when I was two, and I knew what it was by the age of five- I was a girl. That was “The script”, the way to convince a psychiatrist that you should be allowed to transition. I don’t know if people still say it, if it is not true for them. It is true for some but not all of us.

There is a set of ideas about trans folk, mocked by transphobes as “Trans ideology”: trans women have women’s brains, or spirits, and are really women. What “real” means there is slippery- have we redefined “woman” to include those of us with a belief we are women or a desire to be women, or have we access to some objective idea of “woman” which naturally includes us?

Those who want to exclude us ramp up their expression of us as men- trans identified males, trans rights activists TRA to remind people of MRA, even “transsexual man”. They refuse to refer to us with female pronouns, and sometimes won’t even use ambiguous words which could mean either sex.

People who support us say “Trans women are women”, and that is a statement about what is morally right rather than about biology. We should be accepted in women’s spaces and women’s programmes, like the Jo Cox Leadership Programme which welcomes trans women. Trans women exist, whether this is something to do with differences in brains, levels of hormones in utero, or culture and Patriarchy.

Those who want us included do not need to believe that our brains are different. They don’t need an explanation of why someone might be trans. “Gender dysphoria” or “gender identity disorder” are names rather than explanations.

It is more important that a woman is willing to accept me in women’s spaces than that she has particular beliefs about what transgender means. Possibly, she could think that gender was the tool of the patriarchy to oppress women, and that in an ideal genderless society people could be valued for their characteristics without judging whether those characteristics were “masculine” or “feminine”. She could believe that we had different experiences and residual male privilege. As long as she thought we were entitled to be in women’s space, she is an ally. Refuges want to support victims of intimate partner violence whatever their sex or gender.

This means we do not alienate anyone by calling them transphobic. It also means that we can point out transphobia where it exists: if I am harmlessly using a loo, when another woman there sees me and feels fear and anger because she sees I am a trans woman and imagines I am a man, that is transphobia, an unreasoning fear of something harmless. “Don’t be so silly or self-righteous” becomes a reasonable response to the transphobe. It is not about belief but fear. There is nothing to fear.

The belief can be important for us. If I am really a woman, it begins to make sense that I should transition. I puzzled out what “really a woman” or “true transsexual” might mean. If it applied to me, I could transition. And I was sensitive about others’ beliefs, so avidly read the TNUK yahoo email group, which circulated endless stories about some nutcase Evangelical in the US preaching that Sodomy was Bad. Oh! They hate us! I’ll never manage it! These things hurt.

I would rather that even if someone thought transition was ridiculous or disgusting they would never say it because they knew everyone they loved or respected would despise them for the thought. That is not where we are now. For various reasons lots of people are saying we should not be in women’s spaces. Most people don’t care. We care intensely, have internalised transphobia and project it onto others, imagining they judge us when they are worried about their own concerns. If we keep the word transphobia for irrational, disproportionate fear, it will be accepted by most of those people.

Why should you accept me? Because I exist. Why should you treat me as a woman? Because we’ve been treating trans women as women since the 1960s. Simple, really. So much rhetoric, to such little effect!

The Green Party and trans

I was a member of the Green Party. Now, I am committed to the success of the Labour Party, because with first past the post only Labour can defeat the poisonous Tory MP in my constituency. In considering what the party should do, from my almost powerless position as an active member I only want its electoral success. In Brighton, or in a proportional system, I would be an enthusiastic campaigner for the Greens.

The Green Party says welcoming things about trans people in their long, detailed policy statements. The Green Party recognises that there are many gender identities that are within, and outside of, the traditional gender binary of man and woman. The Green Party recognises that trans men are men, trans women are women, and that non-binary identities exist and are valid. We shall respect transgender and non-binary people’s identities as real. The Green Party shall include, and push for further acceptance of, transgender and non-binary people within all areas of society. They would increase NHS provision to “empower rather than demean” us. They would extend the protected characteristic beyond those who intend to transition, (probably that means to non-binary, but may mean to cross-dressers) and remove exemptions in the Equality Act, so women’s services could not exclude us. They have no power to carry out any of this, but it still shows we are welcome.

And, some Green Party members are gender critical feminists, including apparently two prospective parliamentary candidates. I asked Dawn Furness what the Green policy on trans inclusion was, and she refused to answer unless I confirmed I was in her constituency. Then I said I heard you are trans exclusionary. If so, I hope you do not bring the Green Party into disrepute.

It’s not an entirely friendly way of putting it, but her response was OTT. That sounds an awful lot like threats and intimidation… Perhaps you could explain your defamatory statement “I heard you are trans exclusionary.” before I pass the matter on to my solicitor?

-Your angry response disturbs me.
I think you are confusing my polite and civil responses with your own anger and intimidation.

More heat than light there, as with the trans “debate” on telly, after which a Green party candidate, Olivia Palmer, was suspended for allegedly engaging in transphobic abuse.

If you google Olivia Palmer or Dawn Furness, you find their twitter profiles. Both appear to be talented individuals, but they have no press coverage or interest as candidates. Palmer is quoted as saying “It is immensely damaging to give credence to climate change deniers and biological sex deniers alike”. So, that’s me told, lumped in with the Bad People like Donald Trump in one pithy quote.

What can I say to these people? Please, please shut up. You might not like your party’s position on trans people. It was made in a different time, before this damaging battle was fomented by your party’s enemies. If you persist (yes, that word which has resonance for feminists) you will have some press coverage, delighted at the Greens fighting amongst themselves and poking fun at the arcane nature of their battles. Twitter warriors will tweet angrily from the extremes of both sides, and gender critical feminists and trans people will resign from the party in high dudgeon. Local parties will be split, with activists unable to work with each other.

My ideal solution for Palmer’s suspension would be for her to state that she should not be abusive, and for her suspension to be lifted. No-one should be abusive. I doubt it will happen. So people for whom this is the only important political battle at the moment will pile in, and the authoritarian hard Right will rejoice.

Debbie Hayton

Is Debbie Hayton a True TranssexualTM or a “feminine man”? It depends who is talking to her.

On 4 May she and sixteen others wrote to the Guardian, saying “Transsexual people undergo a meaningful transition, including hormone therapy and surgery”. They distinguished this from “male bodied people, including sexual fetishists, demanding access to women’s space”. However on 10 May in the Guardian, Gaby Hinsliff reported her saying she had male privilege from her upbringing, in an ideal world would present as a feminine man, and gave this utterly bizarre justification for transitioning: The problem is, as a teacher, if I express myself completely as non-gendered, I couldn’t get on with the job. If somebody comes in saying: “I’m not a woman or a man” then every time I did a new class, you would have to go through that with them, when what you really want to be doing is teaching them”.

So, she got castrated so as not to have to explain herself to pupils. Actually trans women need to be explained to pupils, and the explanation is not necessarily easier than of an effeminate man the pupils might think was gay. I can see it might be a problem for a supply teacher, but others don’t get new classes that often. If the school has an ethos of acceptance and respect for difference, she will be accepted, and if the school is an academy, many of which have an authoritarian ethos, she won’t. It may be more difficult to get a job where she can fit in. Or, she can pretend to be someone else, like every other teacher in a bad school.

Debbie is active in her teaching union, which has several gender-critical feminists. Do they like her? No. I saw a facebook thread. “Like a too eager puppy,” said one. “Somewhat cute but has annoying habits, like humping your leg. I am a cat person.”

Why tolerate her? “When accusations of ‘transphobia’ are made, TIMs get listened to and women don’t. Like it or not we’re stuck with them.” TIM means “trans-identified male”, or trans woman. But they’re not happy: “I prefer the ‘PUNCH TERFS! DIE CIS SCUM!’ variety. At least they’re honest.”

I am using whatever platforms I have to attempt conciliation with gender-critical feminists. I identify as a feminine male, and have had the operation. I have much less visibility than Debbie Hayton. I would even speak on an “A Woman’s Place” platform, if they would have me, even if another speaker gave a transphobic rant. All trans women are ludicrous and easy to mock. There is an intense vulnerability in being yourself, which many of us do not manage even after transition.

And, don’t throw other trans women under the bus. Don’t claim sexual fetishists are demanding access to women’s space- for some TERFs, with an unforgiving understanding of autogynephilia, that includes post-op transsexual women who have ever been aroused by dressing female, so all gynephile trans women. Don’t claim reform of the Gender Recognition Act has anything to do with such problems. One radical feminist graciously said she would permit me in a woman’s loo, because she knew I was post-op. But, when I was considering transition and going out dressed to see if I could hack it, with a functioning penis, I still needed the loo.

Using the word “male-bodied” is problematic. It won’t endear you to the TERFs, many of whom believe it fits you. Your pelvis is still male, and every human cell will have a Y chromosome. Your labia are a mere simulacrum, the shredded remains of your penis.

That letter said she had a right to define as transsexual, but transgender activists sought to remove the distinction. Well, some object to the word “transsexual”, precisely because it distinguishes between us and creates social pressure to have surgery. I could identify as transsexual but instead identify as trans. There is a great temptation to claim I should have rights, because I have a medical condition, diagnosed by a psychiatrist, but there are all those fake trans perverts from whom I, as well as the real women, need protection. No-one prejudiced against trans women will make such distinctions, so claiming that does us no good and gives ammunition to our enemies. Debbie wrote, A Plea to Trans Activists: We Can Protect Trans Rights Without Denying Biology. However no-one denies biology. We all know what we are. And no-one is a trans activist- we are just ordinary people living our lives, speaking out against everyday prejudice.

At yearly meeting

Yearly meeting, a thousand Quakers in one building in Euston for four days, is heavenly for me. I am with my tribe. Sitting in the sun, I said I had mislaid my lunch, and a friend bought me sandwiches. She has previously bought me coffee, dinner and champagne, and had me to stay, and shows me the weirdness of my world can be lovely as well as threatening.

That was after the Salter lecture, organised by the Quaker Socialist Society and given by Diana Jeater. She wondered why she, rather than Zimbabweans, should be considered a world expert on Zimbabwe, and spoke on how we in Britain are still colonialist. British people went to Africa, and some went to study Africans; but to explain them in British concepts for a British understanding, with metaphors we were comfortable with, which did not precisely fit. So they attempted to formulate how grammar worked in local languages, and then in schools told locals they were speaking their own language ungrammatically. People say “I have been to Africa” as if it were homogenous. We looked at them as if our technological superiority and different religion were superiority of civilisation, and imposed on them. How would it be, if we could find new words, to understand their other ways of seeing? Or let them say who they were, rather than defining them? This is so close to the idea that trans people should speak for ourselves rather than mediated by cis people that it strengthens my acceptance of myself.

I am sad to say that Quakers who spend less time with me seem to like me more- or perhaps it is just harder to negotiate ongoing relationships, and occasional encounters can give the joy of seeing and sharing without the difficulty of working together. Those who have met me before here want to talk to me, and while they care for me they also receive from me. I was glad to see someone again, though they spoke of the increasing difficulty of travelling, and dislike of being apart from their wife. If you’re ever in —-? I will look you up, I said. I may not see them again.

One observed that she had not heard me speak in the business meeting yet: um. Well, even with a thousand people there I often know I can contribute something worthwhile, and I spoke on racism later- to much the same effect as I wrote here. Most of that session was from people pre-arranged to speak, and there was only time for one person from the floor. I was moved to hear my words “Who is like me?” in the minute of the session. The meeting the evening before was a synchronicity. All worked out for good. What one woman heard was that “we are animals”- she brought her young daughter to hug me, as her daughter says the same thing.

Two years ago there were signs on the disabled loos that non-binary people should use the unisex toilets in the basement. This year the disabled loos were marked all-gender toilets. That was OK. I tried the men’s once, and though it was clean I was more uncomfortable than anywhere else- I felt my awareness shrink to my physical location, so I did not bang into anyone. I could not allow myself to be aware of anyone’s reaction to me there. I don’t know how they reacted.

We are included and heard. I heard trans folk give ministry in meeting, and from someone at Oxford meeting about the hire of a room to “A woman’s place”- she showed there was no transphobia in the Quakers hiring out the room. Quakers stood with the demonstrators outside. They only heard details of the room hire at 3pm that day, which was dishonest of AWP. If they make a statement I will publicise it as soon as I hear of it. Yet at the Quaker Gender and Sexuality Diversity meeting, some expressed trans-excluding views. I hope we can hear each other amongst Quakers.

Different experiences

Trans-excluders argue that trans women do not have women’s experiences, so must be excluded from women’s spaces, and the experiences we cannot share are having a female reproductive system, and being socialised as women, which they experience as oppressive.

I don’t have that experience of menstruation, but nor do many women with disorders of sexual development, who would be accepted as women by the trans excluders. To be clear, “But you accept intersex women as women” is a valid argument against “You are not women, because you do not have a woman’s reproductive system”. It is a lifelong series of experiences, usually following the same path, which moulds a person’s life, but it does not mean that I cannot be accepted as a woman, and I have experienced variations in hormone levels which I have found difficult.

I don’t have the experience of men coming on to me and not taking no for an answer from the age of 13, but here women’s experiences are variable. Some girls are seen as unattractive. People are seen as more or less sexual. I have experiences of anxiety or anguish around relationships, and I have had men coming on to me or feeling me up. It can’t be said that we do not have women’s experiences of relationships, as women’s experiences are varied, and we share them with many.

Being socialised as a woman- well, women’s experiences are varied there, too. If you want to climb trees as a child, does your family encourage you or not? Some families are keen that their daughters not feel restricted in what they can do. As with everything, some families are keen to fit in, and some to nurture and celebrate the gifts of each child. That is what is most important for me: the parallel trans experience of not being allowed to be yourself, which happens to those of us least fitting our birth gender, may be mitigated or reinforced by family.

The women who would most keenly exclude us seem to have had these experiences together at a peculiar intensity- shame inculcated at bodies and especially menstruation; sexual abuse and harassment from early teenage; and gendered expectations not fitting their true selves and felt as particularly oppressive. That can seem like one Woman’s experience which “transwomen” can never experience. Sexual harassment can be appalling- I worked briefly in a hotel where the cook often repeated a vile phrase about sex with young girls. If he acted on it! I don’t know how many women have such an intense experience, and how many react to it as trans excluders seem to.

Generally, though, the difference between women who welcome us and those who would exclude us from women’s spaces is openness to us, and not particular experiences. Can you feel sympathy with this person, or do you experience them as intruding where they should not be? If we might be harmful, what level of harm and what level of likelihood of that harm is believable, or necessary before we must be excluded? Some would take a logical line- woman is biology, not gender identity, so we are not women, but back that up with heightened statements of the risks we pose. Yet if you are open to including us, our experiences are not sufficiently different from other women’s to make you stop.

The edge of transphobia

Can someone speculate about trans women having male privilege, or being excluded from some women’s spaces, without being transphobic? As not all criticism of the Israeli government is antisemitic, but some is, some such speculation may come from a deeply felt position of support for trans folk, or honest curiosity; and then be used by transphobes to exclude us.

I don’t think Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is transphobic. Back in March 2017, before the self-ID confected debate and hate-explosion, she was interviewed on Channel 4 news:

Interviewer: if you’re a trans woman who grew up identifying as a man who grew up enjoying the privileges of being a man does that take away from becoming a woman are you any less of a real woman?

Adiche: So when people talk about are trans women women, my feeling is that trans women are trans women. I think if you’ve lived in the world as a man, with the privileges the world accords to men, and then changed gender, it’s difficult for me to accept that we can equate your experience with the experience of a woman who has lived from the beginning in the world as a woman and who has not been accorded those privileges that men are. I don’t think it’s a good thing to conflate everything into one. I don’t think it’s a good thing to talk about women’s issues being exactly the same as the issues of trans women. Gender is not biology. Gender is sociology.

She says we have male privilege, though she was prompted to say so by the interviewer. Perhaps she did not know a great deal about the issues, though that is no excuse if you decide to speak out. Lots of people accused her of transphobia- we had that luxury then- and she clarified her comments on facebook:

Gender is a problem not because of how we look or how we identify or how we feel but because of how the world treats us.

Girls are socialized in ways that are harmful to their sense of self – to reduce themselves, to cater to the egos of men, to think of their bodies as repositories of shame. As adult women, many struggle to overcome, to unlearn, much of that social conditioning.

A trans woman is a person born male and a person who, before transitioning, was treated as male by the world. Which means that they experienced the privileges that the world accords men. This does not dismiss the pain of gender confusion or the difficult complexities of how they felt living in bodies not their own.

This is not to say that trans women did not undergo difficulties as boys. But they did not undergo those particular difficulties specific to being born female, and this matters because those experiences shape how adult women born female interact with the world.

And because to be human is to be a complex amalgam of your experiences, it is disingenuous to say that their being born male has no effect on their experience of gender as trans women.

Transphobic? It may help that I consider that there are differences; that I did identify as an inadequate male, before I revolted and knew I am not a man– which is different from those trans women who knew they were girls in childhood. Bullying for being effeminate is different from being socialised as a girl, and the violence cis women and trans women face now is subtly different. Even the one who knew she was a girl was socialised to be a Real Man, not to be a properly feminine woman, to reduce herself, etc. And I see that socialisation, which not all trans women might acknowledge.

Last month, Adichie gave a lecture in Manhattan, spoke at the Women of the World festival in London, and was interviewed in the Guardian. “For her, gender is a social construction”, we are told. Well, for me, too, though not for all trans women. And the interviewer, Lisa Allardice, felt the need to ask her about something she said about trans women, more than a year ago. That’s shitstirring, and more likely to be transphobic than Adichie’s comments. Adichie is an intersectional feminist, particularly interested in the different experiences of different groups- black and white women, cis and trans women. So she focuses on differences. Why raise the matter now? So that controversy might be stirred again, transphobes encouraged to talk of the different experiences of cis and trans women, and trans women portrayed as unreasonable. Some people talking about those differences really are transphobic.

Allardice writes that Adiche “was accused of killing trans women with her words” and that there were calls to burn her books. Oh, those vile unreasonable trans women! Allardice is clutching her pearls, while delighting in publicising our worst actions. But at least she quotes Adiche’s refutation of that. Perhaps she did not understand it: a white woman had said feminism is not all about her, but about black women. Of course feminism is about her. I wish she’d said, “Here is all the shit I get because I am a woman, but I think about all the other women who don’t have the white privilege I have, I can’t imagine what that must be like.” That for me would be perfect. And, of course, feminism is about me, and other trans women, even if feminism includes matters of reproductive rights which will never directly affect me.

You can talk about difference and our different experiences without being transphobic. The issue is, why you want to talk about that? And, not everyone understands the nuances of how our differences affect our feminism, so people have to explain; but the differences should not be a weapon against trans women.


Self ID as a threat

In 2009 Alex Drummond transitioned from male to female. She still has her beard, and did not opt for hormones or surgery. I’m widening the bandwidth of how to be a woman, she said.

I rarely sympathise with the Mumsnet terfs, but when one asked why she couldn’t widen the bandwidth of how to be a man, I am with her. Men should be able to wear skirts if they wish, and should act as feminine as they feel inside- but if it means accessing women’s spaces, I feel there should be some restriction, to honestly intend to appear as a woman. Alex claims to be a woman, she may honestly believe she is one, and so that is not enough: she should not have to alter her body if she does not want to, but keeping the beard means she should not be in women’s spaces. There. I have now taken an exclusionary position.

We’ve all had to start somewhere- male features, bad wigs, unfashionable ill-fitting clothes, thick make-up not quite covering the stubble, obviously trans women. We might intend to transition, but not have started on hormones, or even beard removal yet. You shave as close as you can, and stubble shows. Why should that exclusion not apply to me? If I don’t pass now-

Because of my intention to appear like a woman, which is more than belief that I am one. Mix it up by all means, but go to the toilet of your birth sex, or gender neutral toilets. I will go to gender neutral toilets where available. What if I just could not appear as a woman at all? If I were street homeless, I could not maintain a wig- and therefore, could not socially claim to be a woman. Practically, I would revert.

No, you don’t have to wear skirts, makeup, high heels, long hair all the time. Women can dress down, and so can you. And at the margins it can be difficult- if women can dress androgynously, why not trans women? Of course we can- but not in women’s spaces.

I know that self-ID is a minor administrative change, only affecting those of us who intend to transition life long, not affecting the prevalence of medical treatment of trans folk, or our numbers. And some people appear to believe that it will result in a crowd of men claiming to be women, invading women’s spaces. In reality there are not that many of us, and we’re there already. Or it will in some way restrict other ways of challenging the gender binary, where people are forced to identify as trans rather than as with their birth sex. It’s not a threat, but they claim it is, a personal threat because their identity as a woman, though not “feminine”, is under threat.

Those who don’t like trans people are using the minor administrative change to open up the whole question of trans women in women’s space. They want us excluded, even though we have been there all along. They talk about genuine trans women and predatory men, and the boundary between these two groups- genuine so at least grudgingly tolerated, and predatory so to be excluded, and ideally shamed and prosecuted- is fuzzy. Some would exclude pre-op trans women. Some would go further, look at our motivations, decide some post-op trans women were “autogynephiliac” and exclude us too.

As there won’t be any particular change, there is no new threat. Trans women have been expressing ourselves as women, broadly tolerated, for over fifty years. Transition is a radical act, and only a very few will undertake it: it needs not just gender dysphoria, but the conviction that you will be happier transitioned and can make a go of it. Yet the pretence is that there will be a sudden influx of- people who are objectionable in some undefined way, and they may use that as an excuse to try to exclude me.

A right to use a bathroom

“Women’s rights and trans rights should not be mutually exclusive. Yet they are, according to trans activists. Why is this?” Do our rights conflict, and if so is it anyone’s fault?

I would say they don’t. A few thousand trans women use women’s services and spaces, and while a few thousand women object strenuously and loudly, we can’t know what proportion of the female population don’t care, or have not thought about it. So I go to the loo or the changing room, just like anyone else. No-one’s rights are infringed.

If a woman was frightened or made uncomfortable because she saw a trans woman in a loo, I would regret that, but using that possible fear to forbid trans women to use women’s loos seems to be asserting some nebulous right to not be distressed when out in public, or not be distressed by trans women, or define who is entitled to use women’s services.

Who decides who is entitled? Society as a whole. It’s not just government: when North Carolina had its “bathroom bill”, businesses boycotted the State, and the Governor lost his re-election. Some people care a lot, and gain some influence. It’s not a matter of strict logic, making a definition of “woman” including women with a disorder of sexual development but not trans women entitled to separate spaces, but agreement. I tend to hope that many people’s view of themselves as liberal, tolerant, decent people is enhanced by their acceptance that trans women are women. We are mostly harmless, and if they get a warm glow of satisfaction that makes them feel benevolent towards us, Hooray.

No, seriously. Hooray. It’s a total pain that my right to exist depends on the good will of society, but that is the human condition. No-one can survive alone.

So, rights do not conflict. But even if they did, it would not be my fault. Since the 1960s, the British government has treated trans women as women. When I transitioned, there was a well-worn path for it. Clever lawyers had carved out rights against discrimination from the Sex Discrimination Act, and they were later entrenched in a statutory instrument specifically about trans people. I went to the GP, who referred me to a local psychiatrist, who sent me to a gender identity clinic. I arranged a date that I would transition at work, and then got my bank account, passport and driving licence in my female name. A few years later, after the Gender Recognition Act was passed, I got a gender recognition certificate.

Brave women pioneered that pathway, asserting their right to be seen as women. Doctors, seeing what their patients wanted, gave it to them, so the women went to those doctors. Trans women use women’s loos, and have done since before I was born. I would not have transitioned if no-one had gone before. Finding people who had made a go of transition gave me the courage to attempt it.

Some trans-critical feminists don’t want intact penises in women’s loos, but could tolerate post-operative trans women. But that is not good enough- before I transitioned at work, I was going about socially expressing myself female, and using loos. I had to do that, because I could not have transitioned without some experience of what it was like. And I got a bank card in my female name six months before I transitioned.

I did not do it as of right. I felt the need, so I did it. No-one told me they objected. It is not a matter of rights, logic, or strict definitions, it is a matter of rubbing along together.

Transition is a path open to us. It’s been open for decades, with tolerance from government, and few people caring enough to object.  Those TERFs seeking to exclude us from women’s spaces are trying to close off that path. They are making the change.