Compassion for transphobes

I have compassion for transphobes on the Left, at least the women- they have been hurt by the Patriarchy too, they can have some wonderful feminist campaigning energy. Not for the men, they’re just looking for an excuse to treat someone with contempt, and not for the Right-wingers, they want to enforce gender stereotypes and create a hate-group for people to look down on, but for the feminists?

There is a passionate group of women, called by others TERFs (Trans-excluding Radical Feminists)- a term initially coined by one of them, and claimed by them, which they now claim is a slur, calling themselves by increasingly inoffensive terms: “Gender-critical”, that is, opposed to gender stereotypes, or even “gender-concerned”.

What do I feel? Sadness, frustration, depression. The worst are full of passionate intensity– self-righteously tweeting #expelme because they have been called out on their hate. There’s a tactic on twitter, needle and provoke a trans woman, and when she reacts, screenshot it and retweet ad nauseam:

Look! Look! Look what they’re like!

They want people to see me as a threat. If they want to inspire people to feminist action, they want to do it by fomenting outrage that I have been in women’s spaces for years, and fear that suddenly some great flood of trans women, too frightened to transition before, will join me, or perhaps that sex offenders will dress as women and pretend to be trans women in order to go into women’s spaces and commit crime, rather than not bothering with all the trouble and barging in, like they do now.

Calls for compassion may be met with denial. Their motivation is compassion, they might say. They do not want anyone else to suffer like Keira Bell. They do not want vulnerable women surprised by men in women’s space. They claim they want trans people to have the same rights as other people- they are not against trans rights- but mean that trans women are men so should be treated as men.

The question was, How can we resolve human conflict without violence? But the violence is in spate. Before, I thought of trying to talk their language, and be as winsome as possible, but no longer have the energy.

So the first step has to be, the anti-trans campaigners have to ask themselves why people they respect are against them. Why would the female Labour leadership and deputy leadership candidates sign the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights pledges and say “Trans women are women”? Is there any socialist, feminist or humane principle behind their position? No, they have not been bullied by the Powerful Trans Lobby, which from my side appears to have no power at all, or by Trans Rights Activists, who are just ordinary trans people living our lives.

Then, get them to see us as human beings. This is difficult. No-one likes to admit that they are dehumanizing others. They think they are being entirely reasonable, and compassionate. Showing a trans woman’s suffering may not break the spell. Analogies of other dehumanization campaigns will make them recoil in disgust and denial. You could remind them of the Lavender Menace, but they may imagine they are protecting lesbians.

After that, a mediator could ask them if they have any characteristics or interests in common with trans people. To me it’s obvious- they are more oppressed by gender stereotypes than the average, and so are we; they want to pull them down, and so do we. They don’t see it that way.

Unfortunately the anti-trans campaign on the feminist Left is not merely internet froth, diverting people from real feminist campaigning. It is a concerted effort by the hard Right to inflame culture wars.

Five years ago a blogger group called 1000 voices speak for compassion started posting in unison on themes around compassion, and this post is for their fifth anniversary: other links are here. My compassion is shrinking as I feel more constrained.

Sympathy for Brock Turner

I have almost no sympathy for Brock Turner, a rapist and former student at Stanford. His victim’s letter to the court is beautiful and enraging, for its courage, clear-sightedness, and the account of how damaged she has been by his crime. Let us work against rape culture. His father’s letter has garnered widespread derision and anger, for its reference to “twenty minutes of action”. But reading the whole letter, I had a different impression, at just one moment:

He was struggling to fit in socially… Brock was nearly distraught knowing that he had to return early from Christmas break for swimming training camp. We even questioned whether it was the right move to send him back to Stanford for the winter quarter. In hindsight, it’s clear that Brock was desperately trying to fit in at Stanford and fell into the culture of alcohol consumption and partying.

Brock Turner committed rape because he wanted to fit in.

Can you believe that? Well…

He is a mid-west boy, extremely bright to get into Stanford, but his family barely able to afford it, even with a 60% swimming scholarship. He has no experience like this: not of the parties or the other students, not of being average rather than exceptional, or a thousand miles from home. His father is angry, with “alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity”. No, rape is not sexual promiscuity; but Brock was shamed because he was not having sex as much as he thought other undergraduates were.

The relatively low status male- highly intelligent, athletic, and hard-working, but with much less money and social confidence than those surrounding him- commits a terrible act of violence on an unconscious woman. He has to have sex, with anyone, under any circumstances, because of the pressure of those male peers, so he rapes an unconscious woman.

Rape culture is men feeling entitled to women’s bodies, and rape culture is shaming. Brock Turner is the boy his father knew, who could behave as sweetly as his father saw, and at the same time he is the violent man who committed a violent assault, who treated a woman as less than a person, who tore off her underwear and left dirt and abrasions in her vagina, because he thought that act would let him look his peers in the eye, and because his milieu was one that glorified violence. He was broken, chewed up and spat out by a system which continues to break men like him, and where higher-status men use and abuse women without any consequence, for them.

When I read that letter more sympathetically, I see that Dan Turner is not blaming the victim, but the culture of Stanford which made a weak boy commit a vile act: because the men who shamed Brock Turner really can do anything they like.

Added: after further thought and reading, No. No sympathy. That someone so gifted might be made to feel inadequate is shocking; but his failure to take responsibility is repellant. He did feel entitled. Probably he still does. Commission of an offence while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is an aggravating factor in England and Wales. Somehow, he and his supporters have to be made to realise the seriousness of his crime.


Listening makes me feel good. I don’t do it out of love, or duty; I do it because that is who I am. It confers no rights on me: I have received my reward in full; yet I am well rewarded.

One could not listen without communicating first. I am a person who will not judge you, not your past acts nor your character. You check this out, first, a toe in the water before diving in. You need to hear it before you can trust and unburden. Though some people appear this way, and are not: my philosophy student friend remarked that people told him things; he mimicked this sympathetic type, without being it.

People talk because it is a relief for them. You judge yourself, you tell me, I absolve you, you gather the ability and energy to absolve yourself. Or you feel badly hurt, and resentful: I agree it was not fair and you gain relief. When my mother was dying of cancer, she became dependent on morphine. In hospital, some idiot doctor decided to wean her off it- as if addiction could harm her, at all, then. Reducing her morphine gave her needless pain and probably shortened her life. I told this, later, to a trans man, a consultant in palliative care, and he said that oncologists should have known better; and his few words took away so much of my pain.

Sometimes a person is like a bottomless pit of misery. S/he could talk for an hour sharing pain and gain no relief from it at all.

I feel I earth the pain. I do not take it into myself, but offer it up to God, or let it go. I must sympathise: while listening, I am in the moment with the person, feeling with them, accepting them; then after, I shed the pain, taking a moment to cleanse myself of it.

I loved listening. While it was a necessary part of my job, to delve into secret suffering, what a person could not face, so as to get evidence for DLA or IB, I felt as well as helping with appeals I was giving relief. A person would feel less alone.

Some people are good at it. F was the doctor in the genito-urinary clinic, where all the patients are terrified, who would hear the story of the patient being abused as a child. Other doctors would deal with the presenting physical problem.

So why do I not do it now? There are opportunities, such as the Beaumont Trust telephone line for trans folk to call about practical issues or for a listening ear; for more commitment, there is the Samaritans. I do not want the commitment. I see that commitment as holding forth only possibility of failure, rather than fulfilment. I need to learn to trust.

Monet, Madame Gaudibert

Control II

Sunlight through trees dapples the road. I go down into the dip as fast as I can then stride up the slope on the other side (it’s rolling, rather than hilly, countryside) in top gear. Cycling Highs! I did nine miles, which is an hour’s pleasant, mild exercise rather than a serious effort.

I wanted to cycle as the weather was perfect for it. I have put my seat higher: this will mean cycling more efficiently as I use my calves, but at first it might mean soreness at unaccustomed muscle use. Actually I found I was still pedalling on the instep rather than the ball of the foot, and wiggling my bottom from side to side over the seat. Would that strain the back?

I was sure I wanted to cycle, but I was writing my post from yesterday, wrestling with gender essentialism, analysing. Where is integrity and freedom? What do I want, and why? Who am I? I want to know. Knowing is control. Not knowing can be just too frightening. From what I actually do, it appears I want to write, instead, and not submit that for publication elsewhere than my blog.

I am sick, objectively disordered, wanting to stay in my living room rather than going out. Here I am in control. Yet the sickness is the pain which I am healing: the desire to remain indoors is beautiful and healthy, because it is my way to healing.

I question everything. I don’t do what feels comfortable, I do what feels frightening but less frightening than the other thing. Or do what I have been used to doing, suppressing my pain fear and anger until I cannot. From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit moves-

There were three people ahead of me in the queue in the Marsby post office, and when I entered the woman in front of me stepped two yards to the side, as far as she could get from the others. Another conferred briefly with her, then they left. It looks like an exercise to me: go to the post office, a testing, stressful but hopefully manageable task one could complete if conditions were propitious. She is in control sufficiently to abort the mission. I drifted outside and looked after them, wondering if I could reassure her I was no threat, or in some way show her my great-hearted Love as an antidote to her pain, but had no idea how to communicate, and it was not my problem anyway. Not theirs, either, perhaps.

I sat outside in the sun, in a recliner with a cheap, lumpy cushion, my head resting on the metal bar. It would be more lucrative to argue successfully before the Court of Appeal, but this is what I want, now, looking up at those birds. This is where my love and beauty, the love of God and the beauty of the World have brought me, now. I let go of what shall I do next. What shall I do, now? Meditating, cycling, writing here, analysing, sunbathing- appears to be what I want, from what I actually do. Perhaps it is alright. I went for another cushion for my head.

Part of 1000 voices speak for compassion.


Talking to the Bishop

I have a recurring fantasy at the moment. There will be a fringe meeting with a Roman Catholic bishop at Yearly Meeting. I think of quoting some of his catechism on us queers at him, then saying something like, if you are not doing all you can to get this evil rubbish expunged from your religion, then you are responsible for the suicides it causes.


Considering such an encounter, normally I would repeat my question many times beforehand, to get it as elegant and expressive as possible, but here I just express my bitterness and vitriol. The bishop shrinks, as with Alice’s Drink-me, and I stamp on him then scuff my shoe repeatedly over him until he is just a smear on the floor-tiles.

Hazel quoted the Gospel of Thomas: Jesus said: if you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you. That translation is in Elaine Pagels‘ book; it makes it accessible and pungent. These scholarly translations do not bring out that meaning so clearly. It could be true, though.

I might go to Jamie Catto’s workshop at the weekend. Oh God, not more personal growth. At his TEDx talk, he gave this exercise: think of a person you detest, and one word to describe what you loathe about them. You are projecting. Label yourself with that word and act it out. Mmm. Arrogant. Camp. Striking. Forceful. Loud. I am feminine– soft, gentle, peaceful, and recognising that was the great gift of the Essence process, but I should not imagine I am consistent, at least until I can express myself. There may be consistency, beauty, whatever there, eventually, but I should not think that I can imagine what it would be. I do not know where I am going, or I would be there already.

1000 Voices speak for compassion is on about Nurturing atm. I suppose I will stick this on their link. I am nurturing myself. If you ask me about it, I make myself as unattractive as I can imagine possible- while still being me. You do not nurture if you want me to pretend to be otherwise, or if you simply want a quick whizz of feeling good about yourself by chucking me a crumb of niceness.  Here am I in my messy glory. And finally, a Koan.

I do not know where I am going, or I would be there already.
I know where I am going. I am there already.

How profound is that?
Nigeria, Ejagham headdress

Bullying succeeds

Bullying works. That is why people do it.

The first letter the employer’s solicitor sends on receiving an employment tribunal claim is to the claimant, saying that the claim is without merit, but the employer will agree not to pursue costs against the claimant if the claimant agrees to drop the claim immediately. This is usual, whatever the merits of the claim. They seek to terrify the opponent into submission.

Bullying is applauded. I heard on the BBC that the gallery staff and security guards at the National Gallery had gone on strike, because their jobs had just been contracted out. The journalist commented that the unpopular outgoing director had been “doing his job”. Contracting out means steeply reducing wages and worsened working conditions. This is seen as normal, rather than doctrinaire extreme right.

Robert Peston’s programme Quelle Catastrophe! was billed as a report on the rise of the extreme right in France, but was the exact opposite. It was not an argument, but mockery of the French employment law code, which was portrayed as preventing French economic growth by preventing small businesses from expanding. The Front National wishes to reopen factories, for the benefit of the workers. That is a left wing policy, critiqued from an extreme-Right position which the BBC characterises as balanced.

In Britain, Nigel Farage appeals to the racists by calling for the repeal of race discrimination provisions in the Equality Act. He says British employers should be able to prefer British workers. The effect of this would be to erode the British workers’ rights, which is Farage’s real purpose.

This is not quite the #1000speak post envisaged: we were supposed to write of recovery from bullying. There may be uplifting tales of personal growth and increasing maturity and power on the link. But I have not recovered. I have not got over the bullying. Sometimes, as now, I am aware of futile, enervating anger and frustration.

More equal societies are healthier and happier. Now economic growth is the only aim, and all its proceeds must go to the wealthiest, and all services for others must be cut or extinguished, and schools must mould pupils in this ideology: and that is centrist, normal, obvious, rather than some insane Ayn Rand fantasy-

Here is the link to the 1000 voices speak for compassion posts on building from bullying.

Fortunately my inner voices are not bullying me as hard as they did.

Convictions and Compassion

Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.

-Rick Warren

“Lifestyle” is code for LGBT, though could be expanded to other things Warren disapproves of. This is the Rick Warren who inspired the Ugandan anti-homosexuality legislation. He claims to have compassion for gays even while comparing our love to “punching a guy on the nose”. Delight in Truth finds him a backslider but they imagine the World is utterly depraved.

Saying what he thinks about gay people, that our desires are wrong, and campaigning against equal marriage, he still imagines he is compassionate. He knows better than we, after all. He desires our highest good. I would say, “Please! Go and love someone else!”

I know Steph’s alcoholism is bad for her. I saw she had lost her teeth to it. Her mouth is a sorry sight, and she finds her false teeth painful. But I would not stop her drinking. It is her escape from her pain. If I could show her a more healthy or fulfilling escape, I would, and there is my difficulty: Warren believes that leading a gay person to faith in his strange Christ of sterile commandments is liberating rather than enslaving.

I have to acknowledge Warren imagines he is compassionate: his arrogance blinds him to all the contrary evidence.

Another line: if Warren said that he shall not allow his convictions to get in the way of his compassion, a statement of intent, it would be less bad. There would be a chance that he would listen to us. Instead he says he does not, a claim about his conduct, so that however vicious it is he believes himself loving. Confident he is right, he refuses all evidence to the contrary. That is not respectful, even if he intends compassion. Stopping drinking is so difficult that the person must want for themself to change, must see something better is possible. Telling them that it is without persuading them merely antagonises them.

Warren is a homophobe despite his protestations. He has taken into himself generations of hatred and oppression of gay people.

Hogarth Rake's Progress 8- In the madhouse

Compassion III

I know that when another’s compassion touches me, it can change my life, letting me see things in a new way, giving me hope and new energy to act as I could not before. I know that my compassion can warm others, and when it does it delights me.

I know that compassion, when not life-changing, can change my day: when another driver lets me pull out, I find myself behaving more courteously to others, and imagine a chain reaction of courtesy spreading across the city’s roads. When tempted to react to another driver’s discourtesy, compassion saves me from that: he is rushing, and perhaps his wife’s waters have broken; he is slow, and does not know where he is, and needs to take care to find the way.

I know that these small experiences and understandings of a moment’s compassion can help me give and receive compassion better. I take them into my heart, they warm me and help me value myself. I learn from them, and improve my practice, and see it benefits me.

I know that when I work with another compassion between us oils the wheels so that we work together more happily and more productively.

I know that when I behave altruistically, I gain joy.

I know that I feel compassion when I hear of people suffering on another continent, then may feel powerless. It is too much. There is nothing I can do, so I must take comfort from the acts I can perform in my own community. And I know that so many of us feel that same compassion, and that some blessed individuals can channel and direct this compassion so that it changes others’ lives: with that leadership we can act together and improve the conditions of clothing workers in Bangladesh or chickens laying eggs in barns.

I know that every thought or act of compassion, however small, has value for giver and receiver.

I know that people are naturally compassionate. We have mirror neurons in our brains which make us feel what another feels. I know that this is a great gift, because it binds us together and helps us to work together and when we are together we are so powerful.

I know that perfect love drives out all fear. I know God Who is Love.

I am delighted to be part of 1000 voices speak for compassion. This page introduces it. Here is the link to all the posts. Join us!

The love of God

When I was still afar off, my father saw me. He ran and embraced me and kissed me. I started to say “I have sinned against you” but he would not let me finish; and he celebrated me, with me.

God is Love. God is infinite love. We can betray God, mock God- nothing we can do can put us beyond the bounds of God’s love.

Be perfect, as your father in heaven is perfect- that is, be perfectly and idiosyncratically yourself, as God knitted you together in your mother’s womb. God saw what God had made, and it was very good.

Rumi saw it: You suppose that you’re the trouble, But you’re really the cure. You suppose that you’re the lock on the door, But really you’re the key that opens it. It’s too bad that you want to be someone else. You don’t see your own face, your own beauty. Yet, no one’s face is more beautiful than yours.

It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I love this prayer from the Church of England:

Father of all,
we give you thanks and praise,
that when we were still far off
you met us in your Son and brought us home.
Dying and living, he declared your love,
gave us grace, and opened the gate of glory.
May we who share Christ’s body live his risen life;
we who drink his cup bring life to others;
we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world.
Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us,
so we and all your children shall be free,
and the whole earth live to praise your name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jawlensky, the young Christ


My left lower eyelid shudders left and right for a moment, then it does it again.

Twitches come and go. I had one in my thigh for a time, visible through tight jeans. My eyelid has been twitching for days, and most of yesterday. I sat in Meeting thinking about this. I should not be stressed, says my inner critic. I have no job, after all. Yet I am stressed, and fearful. Life seems OK now, but will it turn out alright?

It is OK. I am stressed, and I am fearful. I have always been stressed and fearful. Now, it does not seem a sign of intolerable weakness. I do not have to fight it and deny it. My inner critic is still on my back, but I take her less seriously. I sat in Meeting, feeling happy though my eyelid shuddered away, though I had always been self-conscious and ashamed of twitching. I must never appear to make any effort at all, I had thought, and this is no longer the case.

I am stressed, and I am fearful. It is OK. It is so much better to permit my feeling than to deny and suppress it, or use it as evidence of my weakness and uselessness.

I am beautiful and valuable,
complete in myself.

Marion is keen to tell me of “Permitted work” while on the sick. Her business is a preferred employer, so I could do permitted work through them indefinitely. I say I could look it up in the CPAG handbook, which I have hardly opened. I am not interested in permitted work at the moment. I will ask her if I consider it.

Am I seeking excuses? The inner critic is full of possible attacks. No. I seek to know where I am right now. Having been so hard on myself, I now show myself compassion.

Alexej von Jawlensky, The Blue MantillaI hate stress, as I have been repeatedly stressed beyond anything I can bear. I have had two principle ways of avoiding it: finding the rules and obeying them- being “good”- and being in control. Being good is impossible, and the attempt makes me negate myself. Being in control is impossible, even if I retreat to my living room, and I hate that too.

Something has changed, though. Before, I hated the twitch. I hated the symptom of stress, the feelings of being stressed, angry and fearful. I should not be feeling these things. I should be better able to cope. Actually being stressed showed how worthless and useless I was. I feared people would notice my twitches and despise me for them.

Now- I am stressed. That is how things are, where I am. I would rather not be stressed, but do not need to deny it or flee it in panic. Just possibly, I may find better ways of improving my situation.