Trans and homophobia

When I realised I was lonely and I wanted a relationship that’s what got me thinking well, I don’t want to be with a man, so the other option is to be with a woman. I thought I can’t be with a woman as I am because it just feels wrong. I saw a documentary on TV and I didn’t realise that women could transition into men so it was from that and realising how unhappy I’ve been all my life, that’s what I wanted to do.

Oh God, I thought, that’s just what gay people who want to drop the T from LGB say we are: it is internalised homophobia. I can only love a woman if I am a man. Being a lesbian “Just feels wrong”. I was bothered to hear this on Radio 4, Ovid in changing times. It also had an old interview with Jan Morris:

-Is it not the height of arrogance to assume that, having your penis taken off you can say “I am now a woman”?
-I have not said that. I am a person who felt self to be of feminine gender so adjust body to fit my inner feelings.

Later we hear her say, I was in a difficult situation, not certain of myself, I tried to be more one or the other. Now I know just what I am, I’m in the middle, really, I’m a bit of each. It’s a comfortable place to be.

We adjust what we say about ourselves, to fit what others will accept. I don’t know about “comfort”. Possibly rather she felt reconciled to the journey, she was not resenting or fighting it. Though I loved her for this:

-Are you ever able to stand up and see an element of absurdity?
-No. I think it is beautiful.

Of course I am absurd. We retain the concept of “normal”, even if we recognise that Diversity is a good thing, and I am certainly not that. I wanted something which many would call ridiculous, and I cannot justify except that I wanted it, because it was the way I could best express who I am. Emotion is absurd, and therefore people are absurd. But I resent on her behalf that allegation of a lack of insight- “Are you ever able”. What arrogance in the interviewer, to suppose that one could only transition if one didn’t understand.

I think I am beautiful.

But that line, being with a woman just felt wrong as he was. He talked of envying his male cousin’s anatomy in the bath, as a child, and how being a girl had been bad enough but puberty was awful; so there are two narratives here. It strikes me he is trying to justify his change, to create as many arguments as he can, and that is one. And gay people would say of course a woman can be with a woman. It is not “wrong”. I would agree- but this trans man said it was wrong for him.

If a gay person objected to trans on that ground, they are denying our existence, our ability to see our nature and make our choices. Phobic? Right back at you.

It does not help that his voice sounded female. Not everyone’s voice breaks properly on T. There is a trans man sound which some men have, a roughened alto, but his was completely female-sounding. The excerpt was without context, beyond that he was 39 at the time: I have no idea where he was on his transition journey.

Narrator: Not every change works out. We are always striving after what is forbidden, Ovid wrote, and coveting what is denied us.

Gender Incongruence of Adolescence and Adulthood

Would you rather be diagnosed with “Gender Incongruence” than “Transsexualism”? The International Classification of Diseases, which is worldwide unlike DSM which is for the USA only, is being revised. It may influence the DSM. Rather than being classified as a “psychiatric disorder” GD, or GI, might be placed in a separate chapter for “Sexual and gender related health”.

How you frame a diagnosis affects what people think of it, and what you do about it. If it is a psychiatric diagnosis, is it merely that psychiatrists are most qualified to make it, or does it stigmatise you? I believe I am a woman, or at least I want to express myself as a woman, and perhaps alter my body. The medical help I want is hormones and surgery, and counselling support to manage that change successfully and comfortably. Together, these alleviate my distress. From the point of view of fourteen years after transition, I want people to have assessment to find whether anything underlies that distress and desire, and to explore less dramatic options for alleviating distress, but from the point of view of immediately before transition I had made up my mind, and would call that assessment “gatekeeping”, which is oppressive. We know what we need. Give it to us.

Should distress (or “dysphoria”) be part of the diagnostic criteria? Well, that is a way to take away stigma from sexual fetishes. Getting aroused by high heeled shoes or whatever is perfectly healthy, and not a diagnosis for a classification of diseases. Only distress might justify medical intervention- not to make the patient normal by taking away the desire or arousal, but to alleviate the distress. That is an imperfect analogy for us. Doctor, I am not distressed at all by wanting to transition, only by society’s norms that I should not, and because of how difficult it is. I am not mentally ill. Medical intervention is justified because I am gender incongruent.

Making distress irrelevant, and focussing on the need for hormones and surgery, makes other outcomes apart from transition seem less appropriate. Then I would have found that liberating; now I find it disturbing.

Is a psychiatric or other medical diagnosis a stigma? I don’t think diagnosis is more of a stigma than being trans itself is. Cis people realise doctors are involved: if they accept me, they accept that; and if they do not accept me, that makes it no worse. The diagnosis might reduce stigma- if I transition, people might think I was being unwise, but having a doctor go along with it might reassure them.

We experience discrimination. I don’t feel adjustment of the narratives we use to explain ourselves will alter that, much: I do my best. This is what I want to do. This is who I am is the necessary basic narrative- if you can’t say that, no narrative will reassure you except temporarily; if that does not let others empathise and accept you no other narrative will.

I am pleased that I suggested “incongruence” as a diagnosis in 2012, and that the ICD is now catching up. What I want for our kind is:

from society- acceptance, however we choose to dress or present
from doctors- discussion of all the options, understanding of all the pitfalls of “work male, play female” and support to do that if chosen; and making us take full responsibility for hormones and surgery so giving them to us if we ask. A Real Life Test- you can be rewarded by hormones and surgery if you express female for a year and Never Lapse- is completely the wrong answer. Instead we should be encouraged and supported to play and explore.

Medical treatment needs paid for. We need our medical treatment, including surgery, quite as much as any other person needs medical treatment. Single payers or insurers should pay for it.

marie-bracquemond-under-the-lamp

Post-materialist

I have been a post-materialist since about 2000, but learned I was one yesterday. Before, I had understood it as a matter of spiritual maturity: people move from a position of condemning non-conformists and out-groups to seeing that every human being is doing their best, under difficult circumstances, to agreeing with Blake’s line, “Everything that is, is holy”.

I welcome diversity, which is part of the flourishing of each person, for the good of humanity. This is part of my identity, how I see myself as a good person.

Then the NYT explains me, quoting Ronald Inglehart: when people grow up taking survival for granted it makes them more open to new ideas and more tolerant of outgroups…bringing greater emphasis on freedom of expression, environmental protection, gender equality, and tolerance of gays, handicapped people and foreigners. It is no merit in me, but an accident of birth. This was shocking, even if in retrospect obvious.

As a post-materialist, it means I should seek understanding of my out-group, which previously I thought of as less mature: if you feel under threat, you circle the wagons. Less mature in me does not mean less mature in others. What is possible, for a person?

It might be that if you can make people feel safer, they will be less angry with the outsider, foreigner or non-conformist. Mr Trump and Mrs May go the other way, encouraging the anger. If you feel looked down on by “liberal elites” who tell you not to feel that anger, you may be tempted by moneyed elites who tell you the anger is right. Trump, never worried about survival, bends others’ anger for his own ends. Encouraging the anger, making people feel OK in themselves and rejecting liberal scorn, pleases them so that he does not need to give them anything worthwhile. How do you benefit, really, from excluding refugees? What gain is there, from making Muslims feel as excluded, powerless and angry as you feel?

Are Trump’s patsies capable of empathy, or of recognising their own feelings? Unable to admit how angry and frightened he feels, a man clings more tightly to his world-view, we are right and everyone else is wrong, and those people over there are a threat. This is simply the truth for him, separate from any anxiety he feels about being able to pay his rent.

Is Trump going to permit discrimination against LGBT on “religious grounds”? The NYT said a draft executive order has circulated, but administration officials denied it would be adopted. They take the pulse of the nation. Will this energise their support, or the resistance? What are people saying about the proposed order? The order would increase hatred, and disempower non-conformity.

I am post-materialist because I am in one of the first hate-groups to be victimised. Thank God for the Windrush, I say, bringing Afro-Caribbean workers to Britain, beginning our long march to tolerance from which I benefit.

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Transphobia III

What is transphobia? I think of it as phobia, ranging from mild discomfort to visceral repulsion, but how does it arise? I asked, and a friend wrote that it is A system of oppression, frequently so deeply embedded in society that it can be presented as “natural”, which pressures people to assume that sex and gender are the same thing, that gender assigned at birth is ‘correct’ gender, and that conforming to gendered expectations is important.

Conforming to gendered expectations. This does not distinguish revulsion at me, expressing myself female, from revulsion at an effeminate man. I would have to pretend to be a Real Man to escape this obloquy. This could alter my view of TERFs, who have a disproportionate emphasis on trans issues, rather than more serious feminist concerns. Even though they themselves do not conform to gendered expectations, they hate my non-conformity

-because it mirrors their own, embracing what they reject
-or even because they project onto me their hatred of their own non-conformity, which makes life so difficult.
-or perhaps because when they discover RadFems, and feel at home, this is one of the ways to show they fit in with that group.

We should be allies. We suffer equally under the system of oppression, but that system pits us against each other. And they would say sex and gender are not the same thing, but that sex is a matter of reproduction, gender a matter of culture.

One said that people are scared when others do not conform to norms. We feel safe in homogeneity. I hope that when you can accept your own variation, you can accept that of others. She went on to say that we should not ask people to repress feelings of discomfort, but instead avoid wrongful behaviour. Exposure to trans folk may cure the transphobe, who will become more comfortable with us as s/he gets to know us- which is just how you treat arachnophobia.

One referred to playing the trans card, claiming trans discrimination where there is a real reason for different treatment. Having so few cards, I might be tempted by that; and when I am talking of how trans folk are wronged I could object to the conversation being turned onto wrongs we commit. Yet we should not play the trans card, it is an act of weakness. Oppressing others entrenches oppression, exacerbates the distance between us.

The transphobic person feels selfrighteous about it, and will have arguments why their behaviour is justified. Cis folk will not be so alive to the smell of transphobia. We can see it, and trying to persuade others no, it’s really transphobic, is horrible, bringing back to me my worst experiences of exclusion.

There is institutional racism. I read of a diversity course where the trainer posited every example as “What do we think of them?” rather than expanding the we to include groups with differences.

There is internalised transphobia. I feel wrong; being treated as wrong revives all those feelings of despair and rejection; I restrict my activities to avoid situations where I fear prejudice. I feel wary in pubs.

One said the word is wrong. It is hatred, not fear. I would say it is an aversion, and the suffix “phobia” though originally meaning fear has been expanded to mean aversion, as in arachnophobia again.

“It gives ignorant, narrow-minded, stupid people a label.” Um. No, I don’t feel that is helpful, because it suggests they are incorrigible, and I hope no-one is incorrigible. It is worth working to reduce transphobia.

One said, having experienced sexual violence from men, she was wary of men and so uncomfortable who she perceived as a man but who wanted to be treated as a woman. I sympathise. Her “instinctive feelings about her safety” arise from her experience, not just dislike of the unfamiliar. She feels discomfort when her reason- this individual is unthreatening- conflicts with those instincts. Her empathy could conflict, as well: she knows it is unfair to treat me so. I responded without criticising, and she said that she did not mean me: and I wept in relief, for we were not distanced after all, and wept at the distance I feel from others, some created in me, some created in them.

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Guilt and shame

Guilt is “I am bad because of what I did”; shame is “I am bad because of who I am”. It seemed my shame was like an overexposed photograph. All white without distinction, I could not distinguish the truly shameful from the everyday things which set off my jumpy, hair-trigger shame reaction. This could prevent a developed sense of guilt. At times, I felt guilty for things I could not control, such as the tribunals I lost, though not all were winnable or deserving. At others, I could excuse myself, I did the best I could. It seems to me these thoughts did not accurately reflect reality, were not a rational response to external factors but an emotional whirlwind.

I try absolutely as hard as I can. All the time.

English bitch Olivia says, You’re frightened that you’ll have [bariatric surgery] and your life won’t change. It’ll stay as it’s always been because this really is who you are. Or words to that effect. I love that character, and hope she will have some character development, not just be the English Villain. She says and does some brilliant things and, because she is English, the outsider, I have just looked up in Wikipedia that she only appears once again. UK broadcast is about three months behind.

This is the usual digression.

Here’s Ten Metre Tower, in which people climb up a tower to look down on a swimming pool, and decide whether to jump. I have done this. There was a crowd up there, and eventually I jumped, not being able to climb down. Watch them. More than one walks to the edge, then walks back, and fear of falling wars in them with fear of climbing down. As they turn away from the edge, fear of the course chosen grows and fear of the course rejected recedes, so several pace back and forth. I remember the exhilaration as I decided to climb up, then apprehension at the top. I am glad I jumped.

I am a human being. I do my best, and make mistakes occasionally. That experience of pacing back and forth between the edge and the stairs down from the tower is a common one, and I have been climbing down. Do I want to jump? (Metaphorically, I mean, I have never been up such a tower again.) Today it was around going cycling, which would be effort but get me out in the sunshine. I took my bike outside and found the chain badly needed cleaning and lubricating after a lot of riding on wet road. So I cleaned and oiled it, and did a bit of housework.

I have been climbing back down the tower stairs. Or not climbing the tower in the first place. It is where I am, I am unsure how to move on from here, and I will not feel guilt about getting here. I know I do my best. I feel guilt and shame would merely enervate me not spur me on, but climbing down means I climb down more easily. Aspiration or hope would be good.

And it is my judgment, not that of others. I know me better than they do.

That group judge me, and I wondered, if I went to the other group how will I feel about them knowing about the first group’s judgment? Am I ashamed of having this happen to me?

olga-boznanska-portrait-of-miss-pearson

Strength

Softness goes with strength, at least in toilet paper adverts…

Where is the strength in trans femininity, strength I can feel and exert rather than observe from the sidelines, ruefully thinking that’s just not me, I could not possibly be like that? The manly strength I aspired to when I sought to Be a Man, that idea of strength gets in the way of finding strength now. Strength in endurance does not feel enough.

In Walter Scott, there is a wife who makes all the important decisions, managing her husband so he imagines they are his. On less important decisions she will give way to him, to preserve the illusion. Manly directness fails before feminine wiles. Being clever, I like the idea of cleverness, persuasiveness, winning, but am infected with cultural attitudes ascribing virtue to qualities ascribed to men. Is “virtue” linked to the Latin for “man”? Latin “virtu” translates to “power”.

There is passive strength, strength to endure. When women stand up for themselves, this is called “sassy”- disrespectful- “Feisty”, which derives from the German for fart, meaning unpleasantly intrusive on attention, or “nasty”, a word which women are claiming. They are called “viragos”, aping men. There is huge cultural pressure against women behaving in that way.

Alexis and Barry debated women’s strength here. I don’t know whether Barry’s experience of women’s equality is specifically a Kiwi perspective. She defined strength as self-discipline, ambition, and emotional stability. These are certainly virtues, but unshowy. They will make confrontation easier, but don’t define how one acts in a confrontation. And, convinced of my wrongness, trying to see how I ought to be, has corroded my emotional stability. Because I fear my emotions, they overwhelm me.

Self-discipline, ambition and emotional stability could be stronger in a confrontation, where physical violence is not permitted- like most confrontations in civilised society. Then the attempt to intimidate is as much a sign of weakness as wheedling is, and calm insistence is strength.

Does being “compassionate, tolerant and fair” make one less likely to stand up for onesself? Possibly, but not necessarily less likely to achieve goals. For the most tolerant and fair person there is the moment you dig your heels in. Then emotion comes to the fore, visibly expressed. That is the moment of weakness. “You’re getting emotional” is a trump card- therefore you must be irrational, and wrong. The compassionate person sees the blind spots of the other, and sees how far the other might be led; and so leads consensus. Together, we are stronger.

Of these virtues, I feel emotional stability is the thing I need to work on, by emotional understanding and self-acceptance.

2 Corinthians comes to mind- Power is made perfect in weakness…When I am weak, then I am strong. I went to look it up; and I still don’t get what it means.

olga-boznanska-portrait-of-a-woman-in-a-white-dress

I-Thou

Of course transphobia exists. There are people I revolt, simply by existing. So if you doubt it-

What did you do to provoke him?

I came within his line of vision. That was it.

I want to be believed. That I might not be is difficult for me. I spoke to him. That was enough. He went off on one. Further questions perplex me. There is nothing more I can say. I can give examples of transphobia, from my own experience; I can make analogies to racism, homophobia or other prejudice; but either you believe someone you do not know might be revolted by my Clareness, my refusal to pretend to be a Real Man™, or you don’t.

You understand revulsion, right? A pile of vomit on a pavement outside a pub? A paedophile? (Yes, yes, I know, Quakers try to see the humanity of everyone, but that should be a sign of exceptional empathy and imagination, not their absence.) Some people appear perfectly normal until one day there’s a spider in the room and you see how they react. And you sympathise, because you understand arachnophobia, and they are ashamed, and you are delighted to dispose of the spider for them, and reassure them. The difference here is I am not a spider but a human being, and he is not ashamed but self-righteous about it. He does not accept there is anything wrong with him- it’s not him, it’s me.

Might I not be afraid of you?

If you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear. You will simply be aware that honest people carrying out honest procedures will produce the right result. If you are afraid, that is evidence of guilt, for the only possible fear is fear of discovery.

I could front it out. Nothing to see here- well, what do you think happened? Surely you cannot believe that I did anything remotely objectionable? But you continue, just sitting there, looking at me, and I start to sweat, and I can’t meet your gaze, and I break down sobbing All right I admit it! I transitioned! Of course I provoked him, I revolt him, I don’t deserve to be in the same room as him because I transitioned! I tried so hard not to! Please! You will see I bear guilt, for that is the guilt I bear.

This self-loathing is so hard, and has driven me into failed attempts to avoid it. If I can be a Real Man I will be alright. That does not work. Then, if I transition I will be alright- except that made me hunt Womanliness, and I am not “a woman”, I am Clare. Eventually, when there was nowhere I could hide from myself, I sought to find myself so I could come to accept myself.

Acceptance by others was a powerful way towards this. I became a member of the Religious Society of Friends in February 2002, and their acceptance and my sense of it gave me the courage to transition two months later. And more recently, perhaps in the past year, I have thought that this gives me an unhealthy attitude to my Quaker meeting. On the plus side, it gave me a serious commitment and desire to serve; and it gave me unrealistic expectations, demands that could not be met. It left me in a state of dependence. The Society was my source of acceptance, and I have to accept myself without that external source.

I get closer and closer to that. And now I recognise that if rejected I won’t die. It is such an odd saying- you see someone, distraught, and say “It’s not the end of the world”- well, it never is, the world goes on, and losses can feel that bad. “It’s not the end of the world” but we don’t always see that and we need it pointed out to us.

In meeting this morning I was thinking of Martin Buber, his “I-thou” or “I-it” relationships, his crying out against treating another person as an object to be used, an it, and requiring “I-thou”, the relationship of human beings. That requires an “I”, a being with a sense of self, because otherwise I cannot have a proper sense of the selfhood of others. I can have an “I-thou” relationship if I can say “I”. I am I. There was ministry about being damaged human beings and accepting others are damaged too. I can accept you are damaged only if I can accept I am damaged; if I am in terrified denial of that, I cannot accept that anyone else might be less than ideal.

I get closer to seeing myself, to self-acceptance. I might be able to see other human beings as other human beings, and that would be a good thing. “I-thou”, a relationship, with people, not quite so alone in the cold unfriendly darkness. Those training to be US Marines are not allowed the word “I”. Instead they say “This recruit” when they refer to themselves. They lose their identity and get it deliberately replaced with an identity as part of the Marine Corps, so that they can risk death, and kill others, because they are told to. “I” is precious. If I am I, I am human, and you can be human too.

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A spiritual leader

Spiritual growth is important to me, and my sources are eclectic, including New Age, Buddhism, Christianity, a bit of psychology. How does the world work? What are human beings like? Who am I, and how may I flourish? These questions matter to everyone. You might see them as matters of maturity, or the wisdom of middle age, and perhaps I see them as “spiritual” because of accidents of upbringing and personality.

I wanted spiritual growth, and became aware that I wanted it to avoid feeling uncomfortable emotions such as anger and fear. Now I know that fleeing my fear or seeking to suppress it is the problem, and I learn to accept and feel the fear. Fighting it only empowers it. My friend Yvonne Spence shared Robert Masters‘ post on this: “Spiritual bypassing” is an attempt to use spirituality to avoid feeling. The spiritual work is difficult: far easier to lie to yourself you have done it already.

Spiritual bypassing is a very persistent shadow of spirituality, manifesting in many ways, often without being acknowledged as such. Aspects of spiritual bypassing include exaggerated detachment, emotional numbing and repression, overemphasis on the positive, anger-phobia, blind or overly tolerant compassion, weak or too porous boundaries, lopsided development (cognitive intelligence often being far ahead of emotional and moral intelligence), debilitating judgment about one’s negativity or shadow elements, devaluation of the personal relative to the spiritual, and delusions of having arrived at a higher level of being.

I’ve been there. I am not sure it is entirely delusional, or that my spiritual growth has gone nowhere. I feel wiser than I was, and feel that what I saw as growth was a foundation for where I am now. I imagined that all I needed to do to learn a spiritual lesson was to see that it was necessary, without the work to put it into practice. This may be why I felt all spiritual at weekends away with other seekers, seeming to see much better than when in what we all call “The real world”. But I did see more clearly, and I put the lessons into practice eventually.

Yvonne also found Lissa Rankin. She is a medical doctor whose spiritual growth book is “a journey from the head to the heart and a prescription for finding your life’s purpose.” I found her post repellant, and wanted to work out why. “How to fully feel what hurts without going insane”- what a goal!

So I was repelled, and over the next few hours came up with reasons why that might be so. She is the queen of the cool kids, and advises whom they should no longer admit to their circles- energy vampires, pessimists, and people stuck in their victim story; co-dependents; all who criticize, belittle, shame you, or even attack you for being “needy”; even someone [who] is always meeting your needs but you’re never meeting theirs. Quite a list. “Those who can’t ask for help commit suicide,” she says, and I wonder if this is sweeping condemnation of all suicides. I think it is more complex than that; I wanted to die because I did not feel worthy of life.

Jesus came to mind. “A smouldering wick he will not quench, and a bruised reed he will not break”. I wonder if she has, in moving from head to heart, cast out so many friends. I tend to feel friendships are more complex than that.

Friendships serve a purpose. Possibly Lissa had a great purge of all the energy vampires, etc., and replaced them all with “healthy people”, who appreciate the intimacy that comes with the vulnerability of seeking support. My friends are like me, in the world, with needs, vulnerabilities, strengths and blind spots. All are healthy in a way. Possibly a friendship meets a need in me. I will grow out of co-dependency eventually. Possibly, a friend is the best I can get. Lissa also is clear about the need for good boundaries, yet we spiritual, emotional, intuitive, empathetic types can have difficulty with boundaries. Boundaries and winnowing your friends seems like belt and braces to me. She is assuming my needs are the same as hers.

Her tips jar, too. “Come into right relationship with uncertainty”. Yeah. Wonderful. How? If I don’t know something, there may be ways to find out. “The wisdom to know the difference”- that line of the serenity prayer is too glib. I come to know the difference between what I can change and what I can’t after a lot of trial and error, and may have a period of mourning before finding grudging serenity. Right now, I recognise the importance of being able to bear uncertainty. It is continual practice.

I am sure her book sells well, and her fans love her: “Oh, Lissa…. oh, oh, Sis-Star Lissa….. ” gushes Precious. If only it were so easy as reading her tips, chucking out all the Bad People from your life, and Living Spiritually. It is a tall order. Far easier to lie to yourself that you have done that, that this friend who has annoyed you is an “energy vampire” so a Bad Person, and you are now Spiritual. That is the “spiritual bypassing” Lissa warns of.

Ah. What is touching a nerve in me? Certainly the feeling of being excluded: I can never read about “people to excise from your life” without fearing it means me. There is a lot of good sense here. Pure envy: I want to write spiritual stuff for spiritual people, especially if I can get paid for it. But I want to build community, where all are included.

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That’s enough Olga Boznanska portraits, I think. These five knowing, watchful women. They are moving subtly through a hard world, and I wish them well, but do not like them much.

Trans v Ultra-Orthodox

A judge has ordered that a trans woman should never see her children, because their Orthodox Jewish “community” would ostracise them.

The fact that made the judge refuse contact for the trans father with her children may be that J, the father, still wants her children to be brought up as ultra-orthodox. The judge recognises all the reasons why it would be good for the children to see their father, and the list is heartbreaking. They have an irreplaceable relationship, a right to family life, they want it and not having it will be deeply distressing causing a deep sense of loss; the children will resent the injustice that their community deprived them of contact, and that deprivation is discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment; the children’s sense of identity and self worth will be affected if their father is treated as a sinner, unworthy to see them; they won’t know if J is well or ill; they will not get to know or understand J, as the “community” will denigrate her; depriving her of contact is similar to adoption, cutting her out of their lives; if they have contact now, they might get some experience of the outside world, some chance at being able to make their own choices; they may never be able to choose to see their father, even as adults; contact now means that professional help is available; the court has ordered that the father send four letters a year, but the community may prevent even that. It is an appalling list.

Against the father having contact, the court counts the extreme pressure she has been under, which may make her upset in front of the children. That is Kafkaesque. If they saw her upset, they might see how transition helped her, and how she overcame her difficulties. However the judge says that indicates caution but would not by itself prevent contact.

The father’s lawyers argued that the schools should obey the law. If they did so, teaching tolerance and respect, attitudes might change. The judge disapproves of the schools, and will send the judgment to the Department for Education. I hope some attempt may be made to enforce the law on them.

The judge had hoped that a “warm, supportive” community would support children’s need to see their father. When he pointed out that the evidence had dire warnings of ostracism but no examples, the mother’s lawyers produced statements showing that child victims of sexual abuse had been ostracised. He told them he did not think they could be that monstrous, and they desperately scrambled to prove that yes, they were.

Even though he heard evidence that Jewish law could tolerate trans people, he accepted that this particular community could not. The community is proved to disregard justice, and the welfare of the children. The community all say they will continue their discrimination and victimisation. The father accepts the community is like that, but hope it can be made to change, but even educated people are unyielding and there is no evidence anyone in authority in the community wishes it to change.

The judge recognises that sexuality and gender are not a matter of choice. Trans folk have a right to be recognised and respected as such. “Sin” is irrelevant to law. The children could adapt to their father’s change, but the adults involved could not. The children would be taught in the community that their father was a sinner, and in the outside world that she was an acceptable person. They could never speak of their father to their friends. It would put too much pressure on them. It is too wide a gulf for them to bridge. They would have no support: everyone would take the community line. They might be ejected.

The judge says, I have reached the unwelcome conclusion that the likelihood of the children and their mother being marginalised or excluded by the ultra‐Orthodox community is so real, and the consequences so great, that this one factor, despite its many disadvantages, must prevail over the many advantages of contactThis outcome is not a failure to uphold transgender rights, still less a “win” for the community, but the upholding of the rights of the children to have the least harmful outcome in a situation not of their making.

Orthodox Judaism and trans

You have heard of trans women not being able to see their children. With the difficulty of transition, some of us cannot take on that additional fight. One I knew killed herself after being told her wife would not let her see her children, and at the funeral was erased: she was referred to only by her former name, as if a man had died. Now the English courts have ruled that a trans woman should not see her children, because they would be ostracised by their Orthodox Jewish community if she did. She can write four letters a year to each child.

To write this post, I have read the detailed statement of evidence and law by the judge, but not his own assessment and conclusion. It is clear to me that any child brought up in such a “community” will suffer significant harm.

People in this community are not responsible for their own lives. “Personal decision making is minimal, with all major concerns being discussed with one’s rabbi” [see paragraph 85 of the judgment]. J, the father who has transitioned, [58] knew at the age of six that she was different. She could not speak to anyone, and prayed to God to make it go away. Children in less controlling circumstances feel the same: I did not speak to anyone until aged 18. After fathering five children and twice attempting suicide by taking pills, she began to speak to a therapist outside the community. Broken Rainbow, the LGBT domestic violence charity, gave her confidence to leave. It has now closed down.

The community sees transition as “a defection from core values, and expressive of hostility and disrespect” [106]. The community cannot accept how badly it hurts its members, so blames those who leave.

The court-appointed Guardian accepted that within the community, the children could not make their own decisions about seeing their father [136]. Exposure to the outside world is seen as dangerous to the children, who are taught to see it as hostile to the Jewish community. The mother does not speak of J at all.

Children exposed to “outside influences” may be ostracised. The judgment gives examples of other divorced couples. One mother could not get her child into the school she wanted. “The school would not risk the influences the father’s contact with the child might have on the rest of the student body.” This, note, is the case of a straight parent. In J’s case, her son A’s head teacher said that if A met J he feared A’s religious commitment could be compromised.

In a case where a child was sexually abused within her family and the wider community from age 11-14, she was fostered through secular social services. She was not allowed to talk to friends, whose parents said they could not risk their children hearing about “things”.

J could not bear the thought that her son, aged 12, would be faced with her unexplained disappearance, so she told him fifteen months before that she could not carry on with the marriage, and that she was leaving five days before she did. This is held against her. The pain she has suffered, in being unable to be herself, attempting to conform, finding conformity impossible even though she knew how much it would cost her to transition, and now in transitioning and suffering all that loss, is used against her to show that she should not have access. Telling her son was seen as very bad indeed. Her own needs overwhelm her [120], she cannot prioritise the emotional needs of the children, which militates against contact.

Their interpretation of the Torah is completely against transition. Deuteronomy 22:5 forbids dressing in the clothes of the opposite sex, and Leviticus 22:24 forbids castration. For all religious purposes J will be considered male, will be required to give a Get, or religious divorce, to her wife [93], and as most social activities as sexually segregated would not be allowed to join either the women or the men.

The community fought viciously against J. Having so let her down, they project all their wrongdoing onto her. They threatened violence [61]. They refused to consult her about anything to do with the children, and would not accept maintenance payments from her. They rebuffed all her attempts at contact [25]. They made allegations that she had sexually abused her son aged 4, though the judge says “There is no credible evidence that J has behaved in a sexual manner towards D or any of the other children” [32].

The schools responded particularly badly. Minutes of a “Team around the children” meeting show their priority was to protect the community and enforce its “cultural norms around gender and sexual identity” [33]. The schools’ duty was to “uphold the religious ethos”. Other parents would “protect” their children from information shared by J’s children.

Fortunately, schools are restricted in England from so betraying their pupils. I am horrified that any still persist, but at least one has been shut down. It is unlawful for a school to discriminate against a pupil because of their association with someone transitioning gender [48]. The education regulations include a curriculum obligation to encourage respect for other people, paying particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the 2010 Act [50]. The school was forbidden to enroll new pupils because it did not enable pupils to learn of the existence of trans people. It must encourage respect of us, and other groups which suffer discrimination. Why the Department for Education is not shutting down other such schools, I do not know.

The law supports contact for parents. It is to be presumed that contact furthers the child’s welfare [38]. Children are entitled to the “love and society” of both parents. Court of Appeal cases on trans parents say children should have professional help to learn of their father’s transition so they can adjust to the change [41]. However the Guardian noted that required “a solid structure of support” for the children, wider than the nuclear family [129]. And yet J cannot see her children.

The eldest son is angry with his father. He blames J. “If he cares, he will leave me alone” [139]. He said his father had done him damage. The child cannot recognise that the damage comes from the Community failing to accept how human beings are, and imposing such terrible control.

You can download the judgment from this page.