Dysphoria after transition

Transition to expressing myself female was what I had to do. It was liberating. After trying to make a man of myself, I was able to be me. And the work of liberation has continued, and been difficult, over the sixteen years since.

I grew up with definite ideas of what it meant to be a man. It meant fighting, if necessary. Being dominant, athletic, not expressing emotion- the concept fits, even fulfils, some folks.

I had possibly my first celebrity conversation recently. “I feel as if I know you,” she said. She had been on the tiered seats at Yearly Meeting, looking down on me as I spoke before hundreds of people, and then read my articles. Modestly, I pointed out the new outreach leaflets which have my words about me in them. Oh, wow.

I want more of that.

So I was telling a friend, and she observed that I am expressive when I am delighted by something: it is always quite clear. Same with dislike. This expressive self might not be 20th century British, with the “stiff upper lip” ideal, but we are all more expressive now. I am not sure it is “feminine”, particularly, more extreme extrovert, or perhaps for those more powerfully connected to feeling- it was a lot of work to suppress my feelings. Given that I am like that, I am glad to be able to express it without an internal censor. Even if it is no more “feminine” than “masculine”, I don’t think I could express it without having transitioned. I was too buttoned-up. Forty years after some teenagers find it, I finally realise I can be Fabulous! And my attempts are as in need of practice as theirs; and my trans woman’s self doubt and judgment are as strong on this as anything.

It is not just my femininity I have liberated, it is all of me. And yet the constraints on me, my own beliefs about what I must suppress in myself, continued to hurt after transition. It has been a long road, and is not over yet. My discomfort and embarrassment at who I am continued. It may be hard for anyone not trained into it to attain dignity, but self-acceptance is essential and transition was only the first step.

I was still embarrassed, and especially in the first year I faced a gauntlet of mockery, derision and hatred walking down the street. That will increase self-doubt unless, with tremendous strength, you ignore the opinions of the haters and decide to love yourself regardless.

Andrea Long Chu, writing in the NYT, says she is suicidal since transition. She is conscious of her appearance- she is a trans woman, so she looks like a trans woman, with some mannish characteristics. She picks on the length of her index fingers, and denies that she is beautiful. Hormones make her weep, and all the pent-up pain of having to present male for decades has exploded. She wanted to be a woman, and she gets to be a trans woman. Her vagina is a “wound”, not a human organ linked to a womb. “There are no good outcomes in transition,” she writes. We are not made well, just made better- it is a choice between two dark shades of grey. So psychiatrists and surgeons should recognise that incremental improvement, and be satisfied with it. It is what we want. It is the way they can “do no harm”.

My hips are narrow, my waist and shoulders relatively wide, and my face mannish. Facial feminisation may be more important and more beneficial than vaginoplasty. I am conscious of my mannishness; but also intensely conscious of being a body, a physical animal, loving to walk barefoot, to cycle, and to feel wind or sun on my bare limbs. Before, I was stuck in my head. And this increase of conscious feeling has involved intense emotional pain. If you want equanimity, not to be troubled by strong feeling, do not transition.

The doubting, blaming and hating of myself continued after transition, and to an extent still does. I am not the woman I wish to be. I am dysphoric. Yet I am more myself, I see myself and love myself better. Transition was what I had to do. I can’t be certain I would be alive without it.

Hannah Bardell, MP

Women MPs in a debate in Parliament stood to defend trans women. Women MPs from the Labour, SNP and Liberal Democrat parties spoke in favour of trans rights after one male Tory tried to spread unfounded fearmongering. Hannah Bardell in particular spoke of how homophobia had scarred her life, and how LGBT people should support the rights of all LGBT.

Don’t spend too much time on the Tory. He’s an idiot, and it’s a car-crash. I glanced at a sentence, and read on open-mouthed at such incredible lying stupidity. A 15-stone bearded man could simply define themselves as female and… suddenly gain access to women’s toilets, hospital wards, changing rooms, refuges and prisons. They would have the right to [act as]… nurses or carers conducting intimate procedures. The hatred and desire to inflame fear is horrible. Thank God the women stood up to him. He was stupid enough to ask Layla Moran MP if she would be happy to share a changing room with someone who “had a male body”. “If that person was a trans woman, I absolutely would,” she said. “I just do not see the issue.” “If the hon. Gentleman is so concerned about violence against women, that is what he should focus on,” said Danielle Rowley MP- actual violence by men, not imaginary threats from trans women.

Hannah Bardell MP quoted Women’s Aid. Any service has the potential to be abused, and they would deal with that case by case, not restrict the rights of a particular group. This is obvious to all but those wilfully blind to it. Born in 1983, she started school when Section 28 came into force, preventing teachers from talking to gay pupils about their sexuality. It was not repealed until 2003, when she was at university. She said, I grew up believing that, if I came out, I could not live a normal life and I would not have equal rights. I am an ardent feminist and an openly gay MP. I am not about to shut the door on the equality of trans people just because people like me now have greater equality. Those of us in the LGBTI+ community, and all of us who believe in equality and enjoy greater equality, must do all that we can to support others who are marginalised and discriminated against. Scotland now has inclusive education, with sex education for gay as well as straight, but she did not come out as lesbian until she was 32. She called the challenges her trans constituents have faced “heartbreaking”. Not having equal rights is “corrosive to the soul”.

I do not think it helps when the media sensationalise… we must not make policy based on a few individuals who seek to abuse the system. Of course- and certainly not based on unfounded fears. 84% of trans people have had suicidal thoughts, and 50% have attempted suicide. “It is a stain on our society,” she said.

She quoted, The chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, Sandy Brindley, said that the most important thing to say was that the proposed legal changes “should make no difference to the provision of women-only services – that’s where some confusion has arisen. There isn’t any Rape Crisis which would ask to see documentation of gender.” She said trans young people, like all young people, will get on better if supported to be themselves. 41% of trans people have experienced a hate crime in the past year. As Lilian Greenwood MP says, trans women need precisely the same protection from male violence and access to safe spaces that other women need.

Here is Ms Bardell’s peroration: I hope the hon. Member for Monmouth and others who have concerns will be reassured by the fact that women’s groups such as Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Zero Tolerance, Engender, Equate Scotland, Close the Gap and the Women 50:50 campaign have come out in support of the proposed changes in Scotland, as have their equivalent organisations in the UK. We must recognise that there are concerns and we must address them, but we absolutely must hold a mirror up to those who are marginalising and attacking trans people and their rights. There is a groundswell of support for equality and for a change in the law to ensure that gender identification and the processes that trans people have to go through are not discriminatory at their core. We absolutely must change the law to ensure that they are properly supported, that the law reflects that and that our society reflects that.

That idiot Tory was repeatedly owned. Unfortunately the Tory minister said “We have no intention of lowering the age [limit]”; they are considering how management of trans prisoners might prevent crimes like Karen White’s in prison; and will consider whether single sex services need “further action” to confirm their right to exclude trans people. Gender Recognition reform is not safe with this Tory government. But all the arguments go our way. The transcript of the debate is here.

Gender Recognition in Scotland: the consultation responses

The consultation in Scotland has produced powerful arguments for gender recognition reform. Trans people should have our true gender recognised with the minimum of bureaucracy. There were over fifteen thousand responses, from Scotland and around the world.

The terfs had got their publicity machine going in England by the close of the consultation in March. In England, nearly half of respondents said trans people should not be allowed to declare our gender. But of people in Scotland, who are most affected, 65% agreed that the law should recognise the gender we officially declare. Why? Because no-one makes such a declaration without thought and commitment, and because the existing procedure is expensive and demeaning, deterring people from applying. We should not need to provide medical reports, because we are not ill, and we have to wait too long to see the particular specialists. A rape crisis centre reported that they work by self-declaration already, and never demand to see anyone’s birth certificate.

Should we have to make a “statutory declaration”, a formal oath or affirmation before a Justice of the Peace or solicitor? A bare majority said Yes, and I agree. It is a serious matter. However, a meeting with a registrar is an alternative. Should we say we will live in the acquired gender “until death”? Some fear reference after death to the previous name and gender, others say they do not know what their intentions will be. Wording like “Currently intend to live in the acquired gender permanently” would solve these problems. Any statutory declaration sets a bar for gender recognition, which might put people off. It may be contrary to the spirit of self-declaration.

There should not be a reflection period after the declaration. People have thought long and hard before we change our gender, and social transition has far more consequences than the declaration.

Should there be a limit on the number of times a person can get legal gender recognition? Some dullard, to make a point, might do a stat dec every week, and if he wants to it harms no-one, and does not make a wider point about the system as a whole. There is no evidence of frivolous behaviour or fraudulent abuse elsewhere, and a limit might show undue concern about such abuse. It might deter people from self-declaring. But for trans people, our understanding of gender can evolve over time, and we might revert because of external pressure- my friend reverted as she could not see her grandchildren otherwise.

Would anyone get a gender recognition certificate in order to assault women in women’s spaces? Layla Moran MP, responding to a hysterical, evidence-free rant from one of our stupidest male MPs, explained why not in Westminster Hall recently: Let us assume that someone wants to go into a women-only space for nefarious purposes. That [gender recognition] would be quite a stupid thing to do because, apart from anything else, if an offence was committed it would show evidence of premeditation, which would increase the person’s sentence. Also, had the certificate been gained for the sole purpose of entering such a space to commit a crime, that would be a separate crime under ​the Fraud Act 2006. If someone was intent on harming women, that would be one of the stupider ways of doing it. People can be trusted to state our own gender identity. It affects no-one else.

Should the declaration only be open to people living in Scotland or whose birth was registered there? I think yes, though a majority disagreed. Other countries might not recognise a Scottish gender declaration of a person without a link to Scotland, but it would be something people could do, symbolically, if they could not get gender recognition in their own countries. It would have effect while in Scotland. It demonstrates Scottish values of liberal inclusiveness. Asylum seekers might not be considered legally resident, and should be able to change their gender. Some people might be planning to move to Scotland.

Now, only people 18 or over can change their gender. Should 16 year olds be able to? Increasingly, 16 year olds can exercise other rights in Scotland. They can get married, and vote in Scottish elections. Most people agreed they should, especially Scots. However existing Scots law presumes capacity to make choices and exercise rights from the age of 12, and younger children can demonstrate their capacity to do so. The UN convention on the rights of the child requires that children are not discriminated against on the grounds of age, gender identity or sexuality. Children can be aware from an early age that they are trans. Gender recognition could help them move into adulthood, and thrive in education or employment. They sometimes avoid applying for opportunities because it would mean showing a wrong gender birth certificate. It affects their self-esteem if their documents are questioned. A parental application or applications by capable children are other possibilities.

Should we be able to get gender recognition irrespective of a spouse’s consent? 70% said yes. Even in marriage we should have a right to personal autonomy and self-identity. Spouses refusing consent could be abusive or manipulative. Trans people are at a high risk of domestic abuse. Abusers should not be given power or control, or the ability to ridicule. You do not need spousal consent for hormone treatment or surgery. Should a civil partnership be converted to a marriage or annulled? I feel opposite-gender couples should be able to get civil partnerships, but that’s really not a trans issue: there should be an option of leaving it be. 73% agreed.

Should gender recognition be a ground of divorce? “Irretrievable breakdown of marriage” is the ground of divorce, including where a spouse has behaved in such a way that it is unreasonable to expect the other to carry on living with them. That does not mean the behaviour was wrong, just the spouse reasonably felt it broke the marriage. So there is no need for a separate ground. That’s the Scottish Government’s view. To have legal gender recognition as a standalone ground for divorce is stigmatisation. It could contravene a right to privacy.

Most people didn’t know whether there should be changes to our right to privacy, and only 15% said there should. But for those who said there should be no change, the most frequent comment was that the right to privacy should be paramount. I feel we need additional protections, but the consultation is inconclusive. We should be protected whether we have a gender recognition certificate or not.

Most people agreed that if someone’s gender is recognised by another legal system, Scotland should automatically recognise it. Of course. No-one should need to reapply. It is unwelcoming and distressing to require a second gender recognition process. There is no basis for treating a person Canadian law, say, treats as a woman, as anything else unless the person desires it. We should not have to prove our gender.

Should Scotland take action to recognise non-binary people? Yes, and 66% of Scots respondents agreed. Being non-binary is just as valid as other genders or being trans. Non-binary people are humiliated by misgendering. They deserve respect and the same rights as everyone else. Non-binary recognition subverts overly rigid gender stereotypes. 75% opted for full recognition with the existing gender recognition system.

The Scots parliament cannot amend the Equality Act, but amendment is vital. Rather than referring to “gender reassignment” it should protect people on the ground of “gender expression and trans identity”, or of gender identity or gender expression. That would protect those terfs who find gender stereotypes particularly repugnant or oppressive. There could still be protection on sex as a separate ground.

The English consultation received over a hundred thousand responses, and the Government hopes to have a response in Spring next year, but the minister says “There will be no loss of trans people’s rights”. That’s a relief. The pdf summary of the responses to the Scottish consultation is here.

Emma and the Muslim

Emma Sherdley worked for a women-only driving instructor’s group. Many women would prefer a female driving instructor. A Muslim student stopped the two hour lesson after one hour, saying she had to go home to breast-feed her baby, then her husband complained to the employer that Emma was not a woman. The husband then sued.

Cue a giggly, nudge-nudge story from the Daily Mail, which gave her dead-name, and quoted the exact words of his original phoned complaint: “You have sent me a man. Send a proper female. How dare you send me a man with a deep voice.”

Emma told the Mail, “I always knew as a child that I was a woman stuck in a man’s body”. Generally, the story is positive about Emma, whose employer praises her as “friendly, professional and patient”. The employer gets the last word: “For [Emma] to be subjected to abuse and threats is simply intolerable”.

I don’t like the idea of a woman needing her husband to book her driving lesson. The husband sounds like a transphobic bully. But of all the Daily Mail articles on trans women, most of which mock and deride us, this is the one I find most loathesome, for it uses us to give a Muslim a kicking. The Mail clearly hates Muslims even more than trans people.

The story went around the world, to Lifesite News in the US. It referred to “Emma” as “he” throughout, and gave this explanation:

The practice of “gender reassignment” or sex-change therapy comes from the popular opinion among psychiatrists that there is a distinction between a person’s sex and his “gender”. The theory, promoted heavily by the homosexualist movement, is that sex is genetically and hormonally determined from conception, while gender is culturally conditioned and is therefore malleable. Hence the theory of “gender dysphoria” where a person feels as though he was born with a sex that conflicts with his “gender”.

It then quotes the director of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University calling “transsexualism” a symptom of personality disorder, and says the concept of malleable gender grew from the radical feminist movement in the 1970s. Tell that to my radical feminist chums.

The Police UK forum demonstrated perfect “I’m not prejudiced” language. “The law says she’s a lady now… though she needs to sort her makeup out. She looks like something out of Gilbert and Sullivan in that photo.”

“Would you have been totally happy with a trans gender turning up? It wouldn’t bother me although I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it made a few people uncomfortable.” Me? Prejudiced? Never.

Even the one wading in at great length to defend us, in sensible tones, used unfortunate language: The law is not an ass in this respect – it has simply been modified so that it can take a more enlightened and sophisticated approach to gender designation rather than the mind-numbingly simplistic “if it’s got a willy it’s a fella” theory grunted by numbskull Sun readers. I would rather Brutus had not referred to willies, but there you go.

This was ten years ago. We are more in the news now, with the manufactured debate about gender recognition, but the language has not changed much. Emma died aged 51 last year, much loved Mum of Katie and Rachel. Donations to Trans-Positive Bradford.

Are you female, or feminine?

I asked trans men if they were transitioning because they were really a man, or because they were masculine; women if female or feminine, non-binary because their true physical form, or their character, was non-binary?

Several trans men said they were really men. Their female-developed bodies revolted them. Their breasts, their widening hips, had been horrible, a weird, squishy, fleshy thing. Their chest masculinisation freed them to be feminine. Femininity before transition was an act, now they could be their authentic feminine selves if no-one would think them a woman. Female puberty had confirmed that they really were men, if there had been any doubt. Body hair delights them, the voice breaking delights them. So even in a utopia without gender stereotypes, they would transition.

I worried about this, when I heard it. I have no idea what proportion detransition. It might seem to confirm the gender-critical feminist perspective, that teenage girls want to transition because being a woman can be horrible, subject to groping, unwanted advances, sexist “banter”, sexist assumptions and treatment at school, university and in employment, and being a man would seem liberating, and yet being a woman is wonderful, being a mother, giving birth and suckling a child are the purpose of these body parts, as well as the sexual pleasure of their owner. Women can be used sexually in a way men are not, so much. Approximating to being a man is liberating, at great cost in physical mutilation and long term hormone treatment with unknown consequences. These women pay the price of sexism with their beautiful female bodies. Sexism erases lesbians.

And yet, that denies the ability of these trans men to make decisions for themselves, or to know themselves. None will say that they transition to escape sexism, but because they really are men, and that they want their bodies to reflect the fact. They are clear that they are men.

I feel feminine. That is how transition enabled me to discover myself and value myself: I could be my feminine self, and begin to peel back the thick layers of shame obscuring myself. I don’t feel constrained by any particular concept of feminine. It is elastic and fuzzy, covering a wide variety of women. I don’t know how things would be, if I had not had hormones and surgery, but had attempted a transition without, but I transitioned because of my femininity.

Others echoed this. They were feminine rather than female. Many, men and women, were not really masculine or feminine, they thought, but both or neither. “I’m just me” is a good way of being. I feel non-binary is freeing. We should be able to adjust our bodies just as far as we need, and express our personalities without feeling constrained by ideals of masculinity or femininity. Men need to find and liberate their feminine side, not just trans women. Yet it is uncomfortable being feminine, and appearing to be a man.

As people went through the transition process they thought less about these things, and were more simply and unaffectedly themselves. Not everyone. Some detransition, and curse the whole idea of changing sex or gender; but it saves many lives.

And the gender-critical should get alongside us. So, yes, they are oppressed by sexism, by men interrupting and taking up space and not respecting them and suspicious of their leadership and ogling and groping and demanding sex. They are distracted from fighting these things by being drawn to fight a few thousand mostly-harmless trans women. We liberate ourselves from patriarchal oppression as best we can.

With young Friends

I was privileged to join a Young Friends’ special interest gathering on affirming trans people. I saw these people being themselves, being real with each other, and feel hope for the Society: this is what Quakerism can do for people.

It is striking to spend time with a group of people a generation younger than I am. Of course there is the energy and brilliant intellect I find everywhere among Quakers: the PhD student, the person doing important work; and a wide range of different life-experiences, different from mine. “I have honestly never seen someone do that before,” said one, and I am delighted to have increased his options or perhaps moved him to investigate further. I am so glad that he said it. And I was self-conscious; I know that cultural references I would expect everyone of my generation to get are a bit nerdy twenty years later, and the Hufflepuff slippers show people deeply affected by something I found entertaining but no more. With another I shared my way into appreciating art, and found it was his way into appreciating music.

I saw one particular expression of beautiful masculinity, unselfconsciously expressed. He was serving us, and the leadership he gave was also service. It has led me to think anew of “toxic masculinity”: it is “toxic” when it is forced on people, or demanded of people whose gifts are different; or if someone thinks he must be dominant or a sissy, and lashes out. It is toxic to the man as well as his victims. Yet masculinity can be fitting. We just need to enlarge our concepts of what a “man” is, or can be: and the generation after me are doing just that.

They supported each other, and they supported me. I talked with each person, at least glimpsed them, shared something with them. In Meeting for Worship on Sunday, at Chester meeting where we had been sleeping on the floor without showering, I was thinking of the Kingdom, of the beauty of each person in their place, their gifts and strengths valued and used, their vulnerabilities protected.

We wrote a draft values statement about trans issues, which we hope will be adopted (perhaps with modifications) by Young Friends’ General Meeting. We spoke deeply of trans issues, and I am inhibited: even to say whether there were trans or non-binary people there might reveal specific things about specific people. I feel valued and affirmed by the draft. I spoke of my experience, it was why I was there, and one asked if I had internalised transphobia. Oh, yes, I am filled with it, it has constricted my life and scarred me deeply. I second-guess and judge myself, and people pick up on my own discomfort and reflect it back to me, so that I feel more uneasy in my skin. So seeing people who do not suffer in that way is liberating. I feel that I understand better, and that the disputes of my generation are finding creative new solutions in theirs. The law needs to get beyond its rigid insistance that everyone must be one sex or the other, as being non-binary is real, and liberates people from stultifying boxes.

Would that we older friends were more blessed with the presence of young friends. We need their leadership and their understanding. The George Gorman lecture is a good start, and Chris Alton’s Swarthmore lecture showed off a beautiful Quaker man.

Your silence will not protect you

When I did not see myself, I felt alone; but now I see myself, I see myself everywhere.

When they bully you, they cut out a part of you. They so mock and deride it that you think it shameful, and try to hide it. You deny it is you. But everyone sees through your pitiful attempts, and knows how to reduce you to a quivering wreck: they point out that part of you that shames you. We are told by healers to be “vulnerable”, but we are no less vulnerable hiding the part that shames us. Hiding it, we have the work of hiding it, and we carry it for all to see.

I face my terror. I will not hide my shameful part any more. It is frightening not to, but trying to hide myself does not work. When I stop trying, my failure ceases to matter. When I fight myself it is a burden, but when I accept myself I find strength in what I denied, hated, sought to expunge.

When I am seen and accepted, I am enabled to see myself, in my power and beauty. We are told by healers to be “vulnerable”, but they mean, come into our power.

I read Audre Lorde, and feel accepted. When she writes of herself, I see parts of me within her, and am enabled to see their beauty. As a child, she wrote poems which expressed what she felt. Poetry was her language, to communicate to others. She had difficulty comprehending how other people thought- it seemed to be in a logical progression, but for her non-verbal communication was more important. Her feelings were chaos and confusion, anchored in poetry.

The words were deceit, misleading her because they misled the speaker. Still the human communicated, beside or alongside the words. “I used to practise trying to think,” she says. She could not learn without a teacher she liked, to feel the truth of what was taught rather than pick up facts.

The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us-the poet-whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free.

Without her mother, she felt alone and worthless because only her mother could see her and accept her. I do not generalise from what she says to people of colour here, now, as she was in America, growing up in the ‘forties, writing in the ‘eighties, but it echoes what I feel, now: “White people [others] feel, Black people [her critics and mine] do.” White people have the luxury of feeling, in her world, but Black people had to just get on with the drudgery of mere survival.

I feel stung by the allegation that I do not Do. I ought first to Do, to earn, to produce, to support myself, before I can take time out to feel, but my feelings cry out to be heard and give me no quarter, they will not be silent until I hear them and honour them.

I feel more stung. Black women could not hear or see or love or accept or nurture or honour one another because they saw themselves in the other, she says. I am suspicious of trans women: Audre writes of the struggle, the need for Black women to confront and wade through the racist constructs underlying our deprivation of each other. When I see a trans woman, I see all the things I ought not to be, and I turn away in shame. I see her through a haze of transphobia; I see myself mirrored in her, and all that has been stolen from me, called shameful, all that I attempt futilely to hide, I see in her and therefore in me, and feel that imposed shame.

I am myself. I can be no other.

We are ourselves. We are beautiful, and when we see our beauty, when the mists of transphobia and bullying disperse, we come into our power.

Audre’s mother loved her, and showed her that, accepting her, nurturing her to be herself, then teaching her how to be herself in white america which never wanted her to even be alive. My mother loved me, but seeing herself as worthless could not accept me; she sought to force me into a mould so I might survive (even if only as an automaton) not knowing the mould would kill me. And yet I survived.

I feel seen. I read Audre, and she explains myself to me, and she validates and values and thereby nourishes and enriches me. I feel and therefore I can be free.

It ceases to be vulnerability when I accept those parts of myself that I sought to hide, and becomes dignity.

Now, I see myself everywhere. I see myself in the deep rich authentic feeling of my beautiful friend, in stories and portraits and cultural artifacts valuing cherishing and honouring people just like me, even in God who made me in God’s image, in all people who are part of me as I am part of them.

I am not alone.
I feel seen.

Baltimore welcomes trans people!

Baltimore Yearly Meeting has issued a statement in support of the civil and human rights of trans and non-binary people. They mean well, that’s part of the problem; but when something written about trans seems off, try replacing with “people of colour” to see why it is objectionable:

Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) rejoices in the presence of transgender people [people of colour] in our midst including non-binary [mixed race] people. Our transgender members enrich our community and deepen our worship. We believe that there is that of God in everyone [even people of colour and trans folk] and everyone has gifts to bring to the world. Whenever anyone is excluded, God’s ability to work in our midst is diminished.

It should not need to be said. It makes me wonder if some Friends balked at it. If Quakers feel the need to state that I am welcome in their meeting, it shows that could be doubted: at best because trans people are generally wary of transphobia, at worst because we have experienced it among Baltimore Quakers. They may know this, so have chosen the words “rejoices in” rather than “welcomes”. This is just saying the same problematic thing, more effusively.

We commit ourselves to support transgender people in our meetings

Ah. There’s the issue. I want everyone supported in our meetings, to learn the full beauty of the Meeting for Worship. We welcome enquirers. Why would we need specifically to commit to supporting transgender people? Perhaps because Friends are best at welcoming people who look like them, and sound like them- in Britain, mostly though not all white, educated, prosperous. Everyone needs support, to learn what centring down means, what being moved means, but trans people might need additional support, to show that those who are unwelcoming are balanced out by the particular welcome by some. That is, this others trans people.

and the civil and human rights of our transgender members and all transgender people.

Yes. Because our civil and human rights are not recognised by some, including the US President.

We also commit to enlarging our understanding of the experience of being transgender.

Um. Well. No two trans people are alike, and no two have the same experience. The risk is that we are classed in one type, the trans people, who have to be welcomed and managed in a particular way. The “trans expert” of the YM might be called in, when one of us becomes particularly problematic. Yes I’m being a bitch. You’ve admitted you have had problems welcoming us in the past, so I am suspicious of you. I will hold you to what you say, and point out where you fall short of a proper welcome: for there is that of God in me, and my leadings and service are as valuable as the next Quaker’s.

No one should face discrimination in employment, housing, health care, or otherwise, or have their dignity assaulted and their human rights curtailed because of their gender identity.

Indeed. What are you doing to do about it? “There is an injustice,” you say: will you oppose it actively, with your time and resources, or be satisfied with merely pointing it out?

What would I want instead? What I say is affected by my understanding, that there is not a single group of trans people, to be distinguished from cis people who have no problems with gender. I use the term “non-binary” as a permission rather than a description of a particular group: when it is too much trouble to attempt passing as a woman, I say I am being non-binary. Others see these things differently. Here is my attempt at an inclusion statement:

We recognise that gender stereotypes are oppressive to many people, and that people are damaged by that oppression.

I am traumatised. That will make me behave oddly occasionally. I want all of me welcome, not just when I pass as normal. I tried to make a man of myself. I suppressed my feelings. I don’t mean that I want to be some sort of parasite on the Quaker meeting, which becomes a support group for me; I have responsibilities as well as rights; but I want to be safe enough to show my hurt, and be valued for my gifts.

We recognise that gender stereotypes have no place in God’s Kingdom, nor among Quakers, but that Quakers are infected with worldly standards of what it means to be masculine or feminine. We pledge to search out whatever in our lives may contain the fruits of those stereotypes.

That’s a reference to Britain YM’s Advices and Queries paragraph 31: Search out whatever in your own way of life may contain the seeds of war. I like religious language, but would not insist on it- only on the underlying sentiment.

Our aim is to welcome each person as a unique, precious child of God, without judgment or stereotype.

A&Q 22. All this is generalisable. People of colour are affected by racism. Disabled people are stereotyped, and many of their difficulties arise from a society made for a stereotype normal/healthy.

We recognise the right of all to escape or subvert those stereotypes in any way they choose, using whatever theory or belief most works for them: we welcome transgender, non-binary and gender-critical people and pledge to learn from them, to grow in mutual understanding and acceptance. We recognise that they are part of our community, like any other Quaker.

Advices and Queries 18: How can we make the meeting a community in which each person is accepted and nurtured, and strangers are welcome? Seek to know one another in the things which are eternal, bear the burden of each other’s failings and pray for one another. As we enter with tender sympathy into the joys and sorrows of each other’s lives, ready to give help and to receive it, our meeting can be a channel for God’s love and forgiveness.

As part of my research writing this post, I came across BYM’s statement on spiritual unity. BYM split in the 19th century, as many US meetings did; and in 1964 they came together. I find that beautiful. They did not minimise the difficulties, but found value in them: We usually find ourselves richer for our differences… From the stimulus of dissimilarity, new insights often arise. That can be true of all human diversity, not just religious disagreement.

This is my 2,500th post.

Liberals support transphobia

Trans people are rigorously policed by transphobes, who define what is acceptable: how we might express ourselves, what we can do, where we can go. Liberals make it harder, not easier, for us to be ourselves. Partly from internalised transphobia, we go along with the transphobes, and the liberals do not help.

We are surrounded and formed by transphobia. There is the concept of what it is to be a man- physically fit and emotionally stoic- and we do not fit it. I still find it difficult to see my qualities as strengths, rather than missing the mark of what a man should be. Then there is the concept of the trans woman, which transphobes police. There is extreme transphobia, as with vile abuse in the street, and more subtle transphobia, being treated slightly differently because I am trans. I can’t quite put my finger on it but the relationship seems odd. Many of us go on a quest for the acceptable trans woman, fitting the stereotype in a way the transphobe will find acceptable, except nothing is really acceptable and they will keep moving the goal posts.

So the liberal, who “takes people as she finds them”, “treats them as individuals”, “quietly lives her own life”, “engages with people on the basis of who they are not what they are” meets the trans woman. The trans woman is nervous, having had bad experiences with cis people before, and the liberal is oblivious. What an unpleasant person, she thinks. Why was she so unforthcoming? Why could she not look me in the eye?

(like my friend Barbara, who did not look even me in the eye, apart from the occasional nervous glance up. Like me, I notice when I am hurt and cannot look someone in the eye even if I have sufficient courage to name my hurt)

If the standard of racism in this country is the neo-fascist who screams abuse at strangers in the street and tells people to “go back where you came from”, the ordinary liberal can imagine she is not racist. She may not notice how “taking people as you find them” reinforces their subjection. I am the only trans person in the room.

If you recognise that privilege exists you work to avoid it. It is not the job of the trans person to point out to the “liberal” where it is; if we do, we may be ignored; if we don’t, we suffer for it.

This is not a matter of learning the language we speak, knowing the precise term a trans woman wants to name gender surgery, but of seeing how we are ground down, and making absolutely clear that you will not grind us further. We don’t know if you will come out with something transphobic, so we are wary.

How can you “take people as they are” anyway? You can’t see their differences, always. We make assumptions about people, and normally those assumptions fit the Kyriarchy. The difficulty is to shed the assumptions. You can’t always see how people are, so we don’t surprise you because you don’t notice.

The Bad person

You made an adult cry, and then you gloated about it. “She cried like a small child,” you said. “She had a woman with her with her arm round her, comforting her like I would comfort a child.” You mocked them.

I have cried like that, I said. Cried like before the Abomination of Desolation, as if my heart had been ripped from me, wordless, screaming, unconsolable.

I am not here to share my hurt. I would tell of the time I was crying hysterically– by which I mean, in the way a rational husband and a rational doctor, a man, would see as a reason to put a woman in a lunatic asylum, diagnosed as sick, so not to be listened to. When I was curled in a ball weeping on the floor. When I was screaming at the floor. I would tell of these times and they would put their most concerned-sympathetic face on, lean forward, put a hand on my knee and whisper softly “How shit it is to be you.”

“They”, here, are everyone but me, everyone outside my skin, the undifferentiated chorus of condemning humanity circled around me mocking, berating, ignoring. They are individuals. You know who you are.

You made them, “her,” cry, and they won’t talk to you again, or interact with you. And it happened fourteen months ago and it lives with you. It affects your life and important relationships now. You both are hurt, but their hurt is heard because they cried, like a small child, and were heard and comforted, and you will not cry, because too often others have made you cry and been pleased: it is their victory, proof of your worthlessness, proof of your abasement and irrationality. Why should they listen to anything you say?

I love your strength. You will not cry. I have been able to cry and be comforted, and able to cry alone, and I have cried and been abased, amazed at my own tears, proof to me of my worthlessness. Such strength, to stare back dry-eyed, at the man, a foot taller than you, perhaps twice your weight, and resist him.

So they are the expert, speaking to audiences of good, thoughtful, decent people of their experience and understanding, and you are the person who must be controlled. Your hurt becomes anger. It becomes fuel. Audre: a boiling hot spring likely to erupt at any point, leaping out of my consciousness like a fire on the landscape. How to train that anger with accuracy rather than deny it has been one of the major tasks of my life. You use it. And you have Sisters, people who love you, and support you.

You, with humanity circled around you since the age of twelve, to use you, blame you, touch you, hurt you, only your cleverness (not any human custom or rule) to protect you.

And I, a man in women’s clothes, terrify women who see me in women’s spaces, as I remind them of violent men where they are told they should be safe and their safety is an illusion, the unspoken rules contradict those spoken. “Do this and you shall be safe” say the con-men. The internet is a pain: I hear all the anger against people like me, which in the street or in my curtailed life I might have been able to avoid. I was not there, but I saw the video, of a hall of women, whipped up, their necessary anger permitted so unleashed against “dangerous men,” and how could I not take it personally?

The rules say you should be safe, not hurt or crying, so when you are hurt it must be your fault. What were you wearing? What did you do to provoke it? Don’t be so sensitive!

You made them cry, and you became the Bad Person. I am not a bad person, I say. “You’re a man,” you say, reasonably, rationally, incontrovertibly. We are divided. I see your hurt and my heart grieves, and yet you are my enemy and I want to use your hurt against you, as proof of your irrationality, you should not be listened to, and proof of your Badness, as you made them cry.

Audre: Why does that anger unleash itself most tellingly against another Black woman at the least excuse? Why do I judge her in a more critical light than any other, becoming enraged when she does not measure up? And why is our anger channelled against each other?

I hate you because I see myself in you. You are my enemy because you want what I want, though perhaps in a slightly different way. The people circling will never let up, never concede anything to you or to me. We are in the ring together, in that circle, and cannot but fight.