Human rights for LGBT in the EU

The European Parliament received a report on the situation of fundamental rights in the EU. It has beautifully sane objectives, though Brexit may prevent us from benefiting.

Schools should teach tolerance so children can identify discrimination (and, I hope, oppose it). The Commission should share Member States’ best practices for addressing gender stereotypes at school. That those stereotypes are oppressive, and to be opposed, is so obvious that the report does not consider it worth saying.

The Parliament “regrets” that LGBTI people suffer discrimination, harassment and bullying. It condemns all forms of discrimination (does that include harassment and bullying?) and encourages member states to adopt laws and policies against homophobia and transphobia, and to work with organisations working for our rights. I don’t know what more than “encouraging” the Parliament could do, or what such encouragement means in practice. It could just be a pious hope. I am glad such hopes are expressed. It sees no contradiction between opposing gender stereotypes and opposing transphobia: we can look after the people most affected, while working to reduce the effect on everyone.

The Parliament Deplores the fact that transgender people are still considered mentally ill in the majority of Member States and calls on those states to review their national mental health catalogues and to develop alternative stigma-free access models, ensuring that medically necessary treatment remains available for all transpeople; deplores the fact that several Member States today still impose requirements on transgender people such as medical intervention in order to have the changed gender recognised (including in passports and official identity documents) and forced sterilisation as a condition for gender reassignment; notes that such requirements are clearly human rights violations; calls on the Commission to provide guidance to Member States on the best models for legal gender recognition in Europe; calls on Member States to recognise change of gender and to provide access to quick, accessible and transparent legal gender recognition procedures without medical requirements such as surgery or sterilisation or psychiatric consent; Welcomes the initiative shown by the Commission in pushing for the depathologisation of transgender identities in the review of the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD); calls on the Commission to intensify efforts to prevent gender variance in childhood from becoming a new ICD diagnosis.

We are not mentally ill. We are trans, and transition is the appropriate course of action for anyone who chooses it freely, though for no-one else. Trans should not be a stigma. We should get surgery and hormones if we want them, but also gender recognition without them if we choose. It’s up to us. I am delighted. If we can choose freely, without social pressure, whether or not to have surgery or hormones we will choose what is best for us.

I am unsure what they mean about preventing gender variance in childhood from becoming a new diagnosis. The DSM model was to depathologise variation, but include diagnoses where variation causes distress to the person or harm to others. TERFs would argue transition causes harm, but I disagree. I see no problem in involving doctors with gender variation. It depends what they do. Making someone happy with their gender variation, along with opposing gender stereotypes, seems good to me.

So in the view of this report, it is up to us. Gender stereotypes should be opposed. If someone wants to transition, with or without medical treatment, the member states should facilitate it. They don’t say when children should receive physical treatment, but could be read as encouraging it as soon as parent, child and doctors want, even before age 16. But what if they change their minds?!!! The European Parliament trusts us to make our own decisions.

pdf of the report.

Behind the mask

All the different aspects of me need to be pulling together. They are proud, contrary souls.

The one I am in right now is playful and filled with Love. I have no self-confidence, I go to another space to be self-confident. Sometimes I cannot speak, I have a thought so disturbing I cannot bring it to consciousness. I am tenacious: were I not, I would have been subsumed. This is the part of the whole human being which makes the decisions, even if all I can do is say No. This is the part that takes delight, in the sun as I cycled to the wee shop this morning. I am determined, to go up the steep hill without dropping another gear. I know what I want to do, day to day. I want to see her, then. Though getting out of bed to cycle to the wee shop was an effort. I would rather just read the news.

This is me without the masks, the central me
Masks are my way of interacting with the world
Masks are what I can let people see

I am glad to be speaking from this part of me. It is a relief to take off the mask. And it is a bit tiring- no stop minimising it is tiring.

Freud’s patient Bertha Pappenheim said that even when she was in a very bad condition- a clear-sighted and calm observer sat, as she put it, in a corner of her brain and looked on at all the mad business. It is such a relief to read of someone else’s double consciousness, one person looking at the other, recounted by Siri Hustvedt as if it were a useful observation rather than just more demented drivelling. Though in my double consciousness I identify with the mad bit rather than the observer, I can think with the observer, say, X is the sensible thing to do; though the chance of X seems more and more remote.

In bed this morning I was thinking how it is much warmer and I don’t need to stay in bed to keep warm, and I could get up for breakfast, even shower first. And then I had breakfast in bed, and could have got up to shower but would rather read the news than get up, even if I have to go somewhere.

-What do you get from reading the news?

That’s a good question. If I have to go somewhere I generally get up in time, but if I have to do something which I could always do later, I may put it off until later. Stimulation without responsibility: it does not matter to my day to day living what is going on in the wider world. I do not need nearly the amount of detail I have. If Mr Trump’s wickedness will make my life worse it might be better not to be reminded of it several times a day, to reduce the pressure to despair. If I am doing something which matters I might do it wrong. If I am just reading the Guardian I can’t. And my comments can get hundreds of up-votes. I like up-votes, and like writing partisan posts to fish for them or more thoughtful comments which get fewer. I might be better to write posts seeking reconciliation, as partisan conflict helps the Right not the Left, by decreasing confidence in what politics, government, and working together for the common good can achieve.

Breakfast in bed, then reading the news- an activity which I cannot possibly get wrong– are rationally chosen activities if maintaining my short term emotional equanimity is my main aim. Which it is.

“If I had to find a job locally, working in a shop or behind that bar, I would hate it,” said H empathetically- not necessarily sympathetically. “Stand in a shop all day, come home and watch television, go to bed- I would just want to die.”

“Or a factory or a warehouse,” I said.

“That would be Worse!” You’re not ill, she tells me. You’re not depressed. Well, perhaps I am, as depression comes before acceptance. She has managed to evade such jobs, at least recently. Should I just embrace malingerer status- I need to convince people I score those fifteen points? What is going on, consciously or unconsciously: it feels like there is this Behind the mask figure, making the decisions, and the sensible part ineffectually insisting that I should look for work. I need to get them working together. It could just be that I do not want to admit, even to myself, I can see nothing better and no way of getting it. There was that woman on the telly, high-functioning anorexic, still doing these apparently self-destructive things around food and yet also doing the rational things necessary to hold down a job.

I like to think she bears me no malice, and seeks to shock me into a more productive response. “Could you work in some LGBTQI whatever organisation?” I have applied, and not even got an interview. “It’s hard, isn’t it?” she says.

Don’t give to beggars, says the Guardian. It locks the beggar in a downward spiral of abject dependency and victimhood, where all self-respect, honesty and hope are lost. Of course I apply that to me. I gave to a beggar last night who approached us as we left the pub at 10.30ish, non-threatening but insistent wanting money for food. “Where would you get food?” He indicated McDonalds, or vaguely “up there” where they give him it cheap as they know he is homeless. And for the first time in Marsby, population 9000, I saw a bloke sitting outside Tesco on one sleeping bag and wrapped in another, head down, with a cap for change. When I left Tesco his stuff was still there but he had gone.

TERF thinking

TERFs see trans women and “trans ideology” as a threat to women and girls. So they make us Other, with derogatory terms like TIM and now “parasite”. Seeing opportunities rather than threats, positive thinking rather than negative, helps you seize those opportunities so that the threats become insignificant. It is adaptive. Why should TERFs think in this embattled way, and what consequences does it have?

They see trans as a threat. They say trans boys are damaged by testosterone, chest masculinisation and binding, rather than freed to express themselves more fully. They say trans women in women’s spaces are a threat to women. They say this blurring of the definition of “woman” and “man” will make women’s liberation impossible, that the oppressed class will not be distinguished from disguised oppressors, so cannot liberate itself.

I see trans as a boon to gender-critical feminists: individually, it helps people express who they really are, and collectively, it subverts gender roles. Allowed to develop naturally, we will move from a strict trans attempt to pass completely, involving surgery and hormones, living in Stealth, and a rigid understanding that trans women are born that way, or have women’s brains, through identifying as “non-binary”, and picking and choosing from the symbols of gender the better to express our underlying gender variation, then not needing the labels at all. The result will be a severing of the link between gender and sex, which is what the gender-critical feminists want.

It is part of my belief system that there should be no out-group, that creating out-groups to be disparaged or opposed incites conflict and impoverishes everyone, and I have read two explanations of this: rejecting out-group thinking is a sign of maturity or spiritual growth (Yay me!) or it comes from a comfortable childhood. That’s arguable too. Yet here am I in an out-group. Are TERFs simply less spiritually advanced?

Anecdotally, the more extreme radical feminists seem to have been traumatised in some way. The iron enters into their souls. The world ceases to be a safe place where we can achieve goals, and becomes filled with threats to be warded off. The threats exist. We differ in how we try to deal with them. Sara Ahmed, who is trans-inclusive, points out some deny them. Between that and magnifying them, becoming a Crusader against them, comes a middle way, awareness of risk without obsession.

I see value in drawing people’s attention to the threats. Others are in denial: they should wake up! “I could not believe how compliant they were”- it feels like an uphill battle, like being Miles Bennell on the road outside Santa Mira seeing lorries full of giant pods. Much feminist work, such as #MeToo, involves speaking out where we have been silent.

It is enjoyable, though not positive in the same way, to radicalise each other, swapping verbal formulations on Twitter and forums. It gives a sense of belonging. That radicalisation can attach to any cause indiscriminately, good or bad.

Being open to accepting trans people means being willing to see good in others, or change your mind. Someone under immediate threat concentrates on evading the threat. You look at wider possibilities when the threat is gone. Some people may not be persuadable: here is Elena Ferrante on how all women are oppressed. Meanwhile masculinity is war on the irrepressible plurality of human existence.

Gender is innate

“You’ve admitted gender is cultural,” she said. “So how can it possibly be innate?”

I have a personality which is innate, or at least formed in early nurture and not easily changed now except by brain injury or disease. That personality has traits culturally associated with femininity. Yes, gender is cultural: what is thought of as proper to or natural for men or for women is defined by the culture, and does not fit people. So there are males- to use that gender critical terminology- naturally feminine, masculine, from the extremes to points in the middle, and females the same. The personality is innate, and judged “feminine” according to cultural understandings. My culturally feminine gender is innate. Let us change the culture- but until that great task is completed, I have to deal with a feminine personality in a male body.

For a woman who finds femininity restrictive, it is easier to see femininity as oppressive than masculinity. Women were thought emotional creatures not rational like men, and still thought less capable of or inclined to STEM jobs. Women are thought better at caring jobs like in nursing. Culturally feminine jobs get paid less. Unpaid caring work is done mostly by women. We imagine leaders as men. A fearless, fiercely intelligent woman might see a man “oppressed” into a more senior position she judged him incompetent for, and crave such “oppression” rather than her own. I see that; and I feel my own oppression keenly, disparaged for character traits I see as positive, encouraged to suppress them and pretend to others which fit me less well because they are seen as “manly”.

I do not want to define my femininity, because that opens it to attack- that is not you; not feminine; not valuable, squishy rather than soft. I have had a go. I have no wish to defend it against a sceptic. No-one has the right to demand I prove it to their satisfaction. Yet I believe in it. It led me to transition, and greater comfort presenting female than male. I feel assenting or compliant rather than assertive, though I assert myself doggedly when driven to it.

I am more comfortable transitioned. It feels that I can better express that culturally feminine, innate personality. It feels less surprising to others, more tolerated, less deprecated. That’s my perception which may not accord with people’s actual attitudes to me. It may be echoes of the attitudes of others long ago, or part of someone’s response which raises echoes within me or is particularly noticeable to me. I like to think it is not a complete fantasy, though it seems like one sometimes: because some people disapprove of transition rather than my personality traits, and I am sensitive to that. I am constantly struggling for self-respect, intensely sensitive to the merest hint that I am living in a fantasy.

My gender, those aspects of my personality which are culturally seen as gendered, is innate. Possibly there are advantages to seeing my qualities as “feminine”, in some way linked by the likelihood of people having one to have the others. More likely the concept of “feminine” gets in the way, making us less likely to perceive them in men, more likely to demand them from women, or imagine some group of attributes as linked when they may not be. We have stereotypes about people because we want to predict them before we know them. The stereotype may make our predictions more wrong than right but we might still cling to it because it gives the illusion of understanding. It gets in the way of knowing others, even of knowing ourselves.

But while we have the concepts of femininity and masculinity, transition makes sense, enabling people to live more comfortably in society. It is not for everyone, and someone much more clearly gender non-conforming than I might reject it. She is a woman, women can be like she is, and she will brook no denial. She perceives transition enjoined by society rather than merely tolerated, and is revolted. Whether we transition or not, gender non-conforming people have a hard time, and should stick together despite the mutual incomprehension of GNC males and females, with our vastly differing personalities, and of those who transition and those who would never consider it.

Coming back to this later, I see Patriarchy as a rejoinder: Patriarchy oppresses women, and so the concept of femininity is worse than useless. Someone might find it as oppressive and negative as I find “effeminate”. I might use “Kyriarchy” as a riposte, as many are oppressed: women, LGBT, BAME, disabled… This is the squabbling of the oppressed, which can only benefit oppressors. So my opponents would be better to just give in.

Someone wrote on Facebook, I am also a gender critical feminist who believes gender is innate. But I have a different take on this since I come from a different position. I agree that gender is both innate and constructed. The bit that’s constructed is how one expresses ones gender. For example the colour pink. This is ‘chosen’ by girls across the land because they love how girly it is, and yet it was historically more a colour for boys. And for another example, I loved Lego and science and making things and hated wearing a dress. This is what made me a “tomboy”. But the sense of ones gender “fit” is what’s innate. As my body began to take a female form I had no dysphoria. Thus my gender fitted. And as I grew into my body beyond my teenage years and began to be sexual with it, I took even more pleasure in it, feeling not only did it fit but it gave me a sense of eroticism as a woman. Of being positively glad to be as I am.

So I’m different to what you describe in that my innate sense of my gender in terms of what I chose to do or wear and how I behaved was and still is very masculine, but that doesn’t give me an innate sense of being a man. Just a woman who presents in a masculine way; if you choose to label it that way. However, I think things would have gone a different way for me had my puberty filled me with dysphoria.

It’s so much easier in our society to be a female with masculine traits than vice versa; it causes issues but they are less aggressive ones.

Someone else: I value your youness and tender, insightful, nourishing words.

TERF propaganda

In a Youth Drama group a 17 year old boy at the start of their transitioning journey informs you that you must refer to them by their chosen female name and only cast them in female roles and that on an upcoming residential they would expect to be sleeping in with the girls. If not they would report you and the young person quotes their rights at you. Parents always insist that their teenage sons and daughters would sleep separately and under safeguarding you need to ensure separate sex accommodation. In addition two of the girls in the group are survivors of sexual abuse.

It starts by referring to the child as a boy. She’s a trans girl. Then it uses innuendo. It implies a threat, of unwanted sexual conduct by the trans girl, but does not spell it out. If you spell it out, you render it ridiculous, but the writer seeks to inflame fear and suspicion so leaves the reader to imagine what might but probably won’t happen.

It raises an issue without any context. How long has the teacher known the pupil, and the other pupils involved? What dormitories or rooms are available at the residential centre? What do the other girls think?

It implies that the survivors are vulnerable. Survivors respond in a variety of ways. All the children here are entitled to the support of the staff, tailored to their individual needs, and as a teacher you would know those needs. A teacher positive about the gender change could create acceptance in the group.

It demands an instant response. A teacher should certainly agree that the pupil should not take male roles, and would use her chosen name, but could reasonably request time to discuss the residential. That teacher would be aware of transitioning children and possibly of the ways schools supported them.

Well, I would not want to play a man, either. The girl quotes her rights and threatens to “report” her teacher. We can be fearless in enforcing our rights, but generally when transitioning we do not want to adopt a defensive posture from the off. We want to make transition work, and to maintain good relationships. Has the teacher shown hostility in the past?

It is ignorant of the law. Schools have various ways of coping. A residential fee-paying girls’ school in London has a protocol on allowing pupils to identify as male or non-binary. We consulted the pupils to find out what the issues were. Their main preoccupation has been to look after people who don’t want to identify as one gender or another, said the head teacher. So the pupils want to be supportive, and the teachers do too. There isn’t the problem insinuated by that writer.

Another fee-paying school put a trans boy in the boys’ boarding house. The Telegraph report misgenders them as “girls”, but they play in the boys’ football team. It quotes as reasonable a head teacher claiming trans is “a hysteria”, and as ridiculous a head teacher who does not use gendered language for pupils. Any problem would be immediately reported, so there is none.

The propaganda ignores the law. Wrigleys solicitors suggest that as sex and gender are different, and because of exceptions in the Equality Act, it may not be discriminatory for a boarding school to refuse to admit a pupil to a single-sex boarding house and its facilities because of the pupil’s sex or gender reassignment.

A little time critically analysing the propaganda shows the fear it seeks to insinuate is unfounded. The propaganda is dangerous, though, as readers might be affected emotionally by it, lacking the tools to analyse it. It is fear-mongering, and therefore reasonably called transphobic.

TERFs: the new tropes

Not getting a sufficient rise out of calling trans women “men”, they now call us “parasites”. But they may have gone too far in denying anyone but they are feminists.

David TC Davies MP hosted an event by “We need to talk”, an anti-trans campaign, in the House of Commons. Davies is not particularly feminist: he voted to reduce the abortion time limit from 24 to 12 weeks. (After the limit there can still be abortions, to prevent “grave permanent injury” to the mother, and for similarly grave reasons.) He wishes to foment hatred of immigrants: after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, he posted “Paris attacks show need to scrap Human Rights Act”. His aim is to split the left, here by supporting TERFs, just as The Spectator, the hard-right magazine which shares its writers with Breitbart, prints their articles. So he uses FGM, arguing the commitment to supporting diversity means turning a blind eye to forced marriages, not doing enough to prevent honour killings, ignoring female genital mutilation. He is trying to turn feminists into Islamophobes.

Ooh, how radical they were! Look at their forums, and you see “Trans-identified male”, or TIM, as their way of referring to trans women. “TIF” comes up very rarely. But as with any addict, the old levels of hate and disgust cease to have an effect, and they need to be more extreme. Sheila Jeffreys said, when men claim to be women…and parasitically occupy the bodies of the oppressed, they speak for the oppressed. They become to be recognised as the oppressed. There’s no space for women’s liberation. It’s not clear what she means by this. Insofar as trans women’s interests differ from cis women’s, she seems to be saying that our interests will be more important. But if we speak for women about feminist concerns, such as the gender pay gap, we are on her side. Trans voices are never louder than cis voices. Cis feminists still get bigger platforms.

Jeffreys called transgender a “sexual fetish”. Again this is radicalising: no trans woman transitions except for femininity, even if there is some arousal, and some feminists have admitted there are a variety of causes, but increasingly they pick on “autogynephilia” as the cause even though there is no correlate for trans men and it does not apply to androphile trans women. The fetish works as a “parasitism” on us. Actually, that could work as well as “born that way” or “I have a woman’s brain” arguments: we are helpless in the face of the desire to transition, so should be allowed to do so comfortably.

“Gender critical feminist” is a tautology- feminism implies being gender critical, they say. That’s fine by me, I will go back to the word TERF. Being gender critical only means that you don’t accept that all women are or should be feminine, not that people do not have a wide range of gender expession. “Feminist is enough to describe that you are critical of the gender doctrine” said a tweet. “By using the word trans we validate this false concept. There are only men and women. Let’s take back our language” said a tweet. The most extreme stuff is left out of Pink News.

Men can’t become women, what’s so difficult about that? It depends on how you define woman. Culture has always had a part in that. There are gender non-conforming people, and transition is one of the ways we free ourselves. Closing that off does not mean that trans men will become angry feminists like her, necessarily. They may just feel stymied, and fail to thrive. Free us up to respond to gender and watch it collapse under its contradictions.

The longer this is a live issue for people, the more extreme positions get. It is only a live issue because the government promised a consultation on gender recognition reform in the Autumn, but has not got round to it yet even though the Scottish consultation has finished. I infer that the Government Equalities Office and its minister Amber Rudd is aiding David Davies’ attempt to split the Left.

Angela Crawley, Equalities spokesperson for the SNP, said As a lesbian woman and a feminist, I stand with trans and non-binary people against the appalling prejudice and discrimination they continue to face. Trans rights are human rights, and the SNP is committed to making Scotland a fairer and more equal country for everyone.

Quotes taken from Pink News.

Ward, Henrietta Mary Ada; Chatterton, 1765; Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/chatterton-1765-189233

Mindful anguish

Richard Rohr’s daily meditations suggested that entering a sense of mindfulness, or presence in the moment, produces a sense of gratitude. So I stopped reading them. Brené Brown says Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose, or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path. That seems better to me.

I will go back to Rohr, though when he attacks the attitude of Christians who want rules-based religion, a fixed set of rules and judgment, rather than openness to what is paradoxically he is reinforcing my understanding of the world and its people- rules-based religion bad, so I’m one of the good people. “We preferred a stable notion of God as an old white man, sitting on a throne”- this is a caricature. Though even under Francis rather than Maledict, I sense his fear of the institutional church and his careful argument that he is orthodox really.

I sense my avoidance as I write.

Then I searched his archives and found no recent use of the word, so perhaps I misread, but what I took from one of these meditations is that moving into a sense of mindfulness feels good, where for me it feels intense. It is a plunge into icy water. I need to go there, out of petty feelgoods like facebook likes and record page-views into reality, but I did and felt anguish.

Don’t tell us what to avoid, but what to seek. The thing to avoid will become irrelevant and uninteresting, when we see clearly what to seek. This passage from Rohr’s meditations is positive: For a nanosecond, there’s no “you” and no God. No experience and no experiencer. There’s simply a direct, undivided, sensate awareness of a single, unified field of being perceived from a far deeper place of aliveness. And what is first tasted in a nanosecond can indeed become a stable and integrated state.

I felt anguish, intensity, ice. Vulnerability, as Dr Brown says.

I am still avoiding: I read in the Guardian of a man who cured his depression by cycling, or something- when cycling he is simply aware. And I used that article to judge myself, for judging myself when cycling. For I am not immediately responding to a situation or simply enjoying the World Perceived, but judging- I should be able to go up this hill in a higher gear. No, listen to your thighs. (Yes, I judge myself for judging).

Mindfulness is easier outside than inside, with nature and all strangeness rather than the familiar regular objects. I could really look at that sandal, and see its detail, but it is not the same as a living thing in the wind. I would like delight, gratitude, wonder, from mindfulness, they make it a state to seek out. I am writing! Analysing mindfulness! It is what I do. Not merely avoiding…

I felt anguish. I connected to my feelings and felt anguish, and I wanted it to stop. Far better to stick with ego reassuring itself that rationality and analysis gives it control. I feel anguish because I am denying and avoiding (judge me bad) or because I have suffered (judge me victim). I am in a particular situation I do not like, having to find a source of income and not liking the available options. Cycling, there is exhileration cycling very slightly downhill with the wind behind me- that road, there- and other sensations. Always there is the analysing mind, which makes progress as well as ruminating. Feelgoods, ways of avoiding with a brief dopamine hit, well, people do that.

Mindfulness is. It is everything. It is worthwhile. It is difficult and challenging. It is-

I sat in Meeting, wrestling, anguished, confused.

What is a “woman”?

“My femininity is different from your femaleness,” I said. “Oh, that’s good,” she said, writing it down. The gender non-conforming woman insists she is a woman and women are oppressed because they are women. Freedom for women requires a strict definition of “woman”, excluding trans women even though it includes some with disorders of sexual development.

My Radical feminist Friend (I have more than one- do not assume any individual) wrote, The illusion of gender difference is the one making it possible to let one sex be dominant and the other subordinate. Any definition of “woman” which includes me would exclude her, or restrict and limit her to “femininity”. Trans is no escape from oppression: she mocked the trans “man”, 5′ tall with a high voice and feminine mannerisms.

A social conservative arguing for traditional marriage, even for women to remain at home looking after children, wrote, Men’s gift, physical strength, is at the same time their greatest liability. It enables them to be extremely helpful but also enables them to get what they want without regard for what is good for everyone. Suddenly I saw this social conservative was on the Left, in seeking common goals and goods rather than individual dominance. We would argue over our differences while here is this clear agreement.

Rather than state advantages for the GNC woman’s definition of “woman”, I might couch them as fears, what she seeks to avoid, to show that I too seek to avoid what she fears- or can gain the advantages she seeks. I can assuage your fears, I say, reassuringly. However it seems they are fears, she is protecting what she has against possible loss.

If I am a woman because of my femininity, then the GNC woman feels she is either restricted to femininity, or excluded from womanhood. She will not accept either. So her definition of woman relies on sexual dimorphism, and whatever fun we can have with intersex or disorders of sexual development, the distinction holds. Including an androgen-insensitive XY woman does not mean she must include me. My side could argue the different intersex folk show sufficient fuzziness at the edges of the definition for me to squeeze in. She does not accept that.

Who needs protected? The GNC woman says women, the XX people, from men, the XY people, because of men’s physical strength and gendered propensity to violence and expressing anger against others rather than internalising it against themselves. Possibly I could say with that social conservative that those needing protection are those who seek “what is good for everyone rather than what they want”, but not all who transition are on the left, and she would say transition is a conservative phenomenon. Both sides are mostly on the left, accusing the other side of being on the right. “You perpetuate gender roles!” they say. “You write for The Spectator!” we reply.

My radical feminist friend told me of girls brought up as boys in Afghanistan, because without a male relative a woman cannot go out. So a widow takes her “son”. One such boy-girl revelled in the freedom that gave her, and one pined for feminine pursuits. People have gender, it just does not correlate to sex.

To answer “Who is a woman?” I would say, everyone who wants to be one or considers herself one- not in the moment on a whim, but as a settled conviction and desire for all of life. Then, “What is a woman like?” Anything women born women want to be, without restriction, but complete diversity including that femininity which appeals to some women, and to all of us who transition to womanhood.

Effeminate

“Effeminacy” is a way of naming a character trait of many men in order to stigmatise it, suppress it and portray it as wholly negative, as a lack rather than a valuable quality. It is used to shame us into distorting and suppressing ourselves. It does great damage. The concept is the main source of my sense of worthlessness, which has hurt me and made my life difficult. It has prevented me and others valuing my gifts.

Sitting above the lake, we watched four coots. One flew towards the others low over the water, stirring up the surface with its feet and wing-tips- I found that quite frightening in a saltwater swan, once, it would be impressive in a coot for other coots. It and another reared up in the water, not touching or wounding each other but facing off. Two others then approached and for about a minute they displayed at each other; then one retreated then swam slowly away, I thought trying to show unconcern or save face, and the others separated. Without any knowledge of coot behaviour I decided they were four males establishing a pecking order. Dominance matters.

Urban Dictionary sees effeminacy as surface presentation: Not necessarily feminine or womanly. (How many women do you know who lisp, flutter their wrists, make prissy lips, and prance?) That makes it like camp. Or, it is a lack of underlying manly virtues like steadiness, determination, force of personality, or an actual vice, softness as a weakness.

In the 18th century a man carrying an umbrella for personal use was seen as effeminate. Men should not bother with such things, or be so concerned with their clothes. This mixes the two ideas: a matter of presentation, perhaps as a deliberate symbol or an inability to conceal the underlying character traits. Dandyism, taking great care of appearance, could be a way of signalling wealth. Poorer but more manly men might resent that, as each man wants to emphasise his own plus points and denigrate those of others. Human hierarchy is more complex than that of coots.

As it is a word which could be used to attack me and those like me, I would like it to be rejected. We should celebrate not denigrate each other, valuing different perspectives rather than seeing anything different as bad. Possibly that is soft of me. The possible denigration puts a real man on his mettle, ready to defend himself. It encourages the development of virtue. Or, I would say the threat of judgment makes us angry and frightened, caring about how we seem then about being found out. The first coot to retreat tries to console himself to feel better, but the coot who psyched out all the others feels good about himself, and that self-confidence will be visible to lady-coots.

How can I defend myself against this weapon-word? If I am overawed by it, to see “effeminacy” as a bad thing, I try to suppress supposedly effeminate qualities in myself. Then I am at war with myself. The word is a dagger in my heart. Rather, it as an irrelevance, not a clear concept describing something real but a fantasy smear to denigrate something people do not understand, or even something they realise they lack, envying it. The concept of effeminacy is a fantasy, conflating imagined vice with real virtue. Those coots weren’t actually touching, just making a big splash. I have gifts, and any apparent similarity between them and that concept is purely coincidental.

Life questions

MaryMary has more questions: Do you think all negatives have a positive somewhere?

No. If your leg is crushed in an accident, you may discover great reserves of grit and determination in learning to walk again, but I would rather find those reserves some other way. “You have climbed a mountain,” said a woman, admiringly, three years after I started to live full time, and I thought but did not say, no, I have climbed out of a pit: it has taken a great deal of my energy, and the result is that I am mostly tolerated. Society should make it far easier for people to find ourselves and be ourselves: far better in play and exploration as a child than years of tortured psychotherapy as an adult.

And yet, in those blackest moments, it may be most important to find the positives, to find anything which will keep you keeping on. Where is your motivation?

Rather than “all negatives have a positive”, as a bromide to encourage myself I prefer “Life is change”- you may experience it as a series of losses, but there are new delights, always, and nothing lasts for ever.

What is your most valued keepsake?

I don’t particularly value things. There is a photo of my parents’ wedding. Mum told me Dad had just told a joke, but in the picture he looks as if he has won at life, and she looks at him- not transported, as he is, but pleased at his happiness. Or so it appears to me. It shows them at their best, so is a good way to remember them. The image could live on in my mind if I lost the photo, or even lost all copies including digital copies. It is a symbol of the relationship and the people, not the people themselves.

I have a chess-board in which pieces, slivers of ivory, are anchored into slits in a leather board, folded flat into a case so you can pause mid-game- ideal if orders come in to go over the top, for a relative took it to the Great War trenches- but I don’t know the name of the relative, so it was valued for a long time, but its personal nature is at one remove for me. Folded, it is slightly thinner than a phone.

What’s most important in life?

Surely that is different for everyone, and will change throughout life. Positively, a sense of purpose and being valued, and negatively a sense of freedom from threat. A sense of threat can invigorate, unless it gets too much and I am merely terrified. Not having much of a sense of purpose I am compensating by valuing myself, seeing my gifts and talents. Life is a process. I will find uses for those talents, I have found some use for them, and should value that. So, being able to see the positives is good.

What’s the best childhood memory you have?

Working very hard to learn the Pathetique sonata, then thundering up and down the keyboard with it. Or, possibly, this memory of danger and triumph.