A gender-free child

Anoush is being brought up gender-free. They can choose their gender later. At 17 months, they are a “lovely little human” who loves dolls but also motorbikes and machinery. Their parents are circus performers, who live on a house boat. They want their child to be who they are, not moulded by the unconscious bias of others into pink is for girls stereotypes. The grandmother found the child’s sex when she changed their nappy, but even other family members do not know.

Hooray! People want to know what genitals someone has so that they know what gender stereotypes to enforce. Even if they consciously desire to subvert such stereotypes and let the child be themself, they will unconsciously steer the child to “boy-things” or “girl-things”. That this is not happening in the first few years of life may be an invaluable foundation, even if when potty-trained and out in the world people will start caring what toilet they use, and nurseries will want to know. The stereotyping afflicts all of us.

So it was odd to read feminists opposing this treatment. Catherine Bennett in the Guardian strongly objected. People should be able to bring their child up free of gender stereotypes while acknowledging their sex.

Clemmie Millbank, in the Independent, also a parent of a baby of seventeen months, observed the gendered treatment given by her fellow Millennials, and the way her husband told their son not to be a wuss when he banged his head. Boys are rebuked for lashing out, but there’s a rueful “boys will be boys” tolerance which would not be extended to girls. Yet she says,

Every time we tell a little girl she’s pretty and a little boy he’s clever, we need to stop ourselves and consider our actions. The only way to tackle gender bias is by confronting it head on, not by hiding it.

Conscious incompetence here would be painful. Always you would ask yourself, am I cuddling this crying child because she is a girl? Am I not cuddling out of a rebellion against stereotyping when I really should? You tell someone to “grow a pair” and feel instantly ashamed.

Bennett claims that the parents are placing gender above sex. The gender-neutral extremist must be continually patrolling their own narrative, whereby gender, a matter of choice and chance, eclipses human biology.

I don’t think they are. There is nothing to indicate that they will alter the child’s body, or ignore their genitals later, just that they want to prevent gender bias now.

Sex is physical, gender is cultural. That is my observation, that of many others, and the basis of feminism opposing women’s oppression (and to a lesser extent men’s) by stereotypes. Actual humans do not naturally fit gendered boxes. So taking action to prevent forcing a child into those boxes is necessary. Some people feel the forcing is natural and appropriate – boys should be boys- some do it thoughtlessly.

I am sure Catherine Bennett would not buy a pink princess shirt for a toddler girl relative. She may even be able to cuddle crying children equally, whatever clothes they wear. Does she despise an unmanly man, or unconsciously reinforce femininity ever? The social pressure to do so is strong.

She is so hostile to concepts of gender neutral as a way to subvert the culture of gender, so hostile to trans people, that she cannot see the value of hiding a child’s genitals. It makes it impossible to stereotype! Is that not obviously a good thing, especially for a feminist?

No one fits the rigid gender boxes. Some people get along with them more or less. Some of us are so tortured by them that we must escape them by any means. We transition, or we change pronouns, or we self-consciously try to give off the signals of the other sex, to change others’ expectations and treatment of us.

None of this is acceptable to some feminists. Only their way is allowed. You can only subvert gender while being clear about sex. They even ally with the far right to oppose transition.

We have to accept all tools to subvert gender, and celebrate everyone fighting it. There are too many people who actively support stereotyping, who think boys should be that type of boy, made to man up, ashamed of showing emotion, and girls should be gentle and caring. Unless we are allies against that our cause is doomed.

A “Christian” site was confused, and in part progressive. This is the progressive bit:

As Christians we love the variety of gifts and personalities God has given to males and females made in his image. We do not want to restrict God, if indeed that were even possible, and narrowly define gender roles and behaviour in ways that are not supported in the Bible.

It seems they think stereotyping can be too restrictive. However they also think “gender is programmed into our DNA”. It is “deeply disturbing” to think Anoush might choose a gender identity different to the one their genitals indicate. But, how could Anouch do that, if it’s against DNA programming?

I wish the parents well. Anoush has a chance to find themself. It would save a lot of angst if everyone else had too.

A gender non-conforming child

In “Roseanne”, the main character’s grandchild, Mark, is gender non-conforming. He paints his nails and wears skirts to school, and yet he claims firmly that he is a boy. Roseanne tells him he has to pick his battles in life, and he says this is important.

Roseanne Barr is openly transphobic: “Women do not want your penises forced in their faces or in our private bathrooms. Respect that FACT.” Forcing a penis in someone’s face without consent is a disgusting image, and shows the visceral disgust she feels for ordinary people going for a pee. The producer consulted Lori Duron, whose son is like that; both the real and fictional families support their child.

So we have two groups of AMAB children: “3G” males, by genes, gonads and genitals. Both groups dress and present feminine. One group insist that they are trans, they are girls, and want called by a girl’s name and to be treated as the girls are treated, including access to the girls’ locker room, which makes all the conservatives angry and frightened. The other group insist they are boys, and insist on their right to present as they wish, which may contravene gendered school uniform rules. That is a huge difference between two groups of children who superficially seem very alike. What could cause it?

One possibility is that they are genuinely different, even though we might not have the language to describe the precise nature of the difference. The trans girls are innately trans. The cis boys are not stereotypically masculine and want visibly to spurn “masculinity” but are not trans.

Or, perhaps the social pressures on them are different. It depends on what they tell people, and what people tell them, and in what circumstances. Then, the slightest difference in treatment might push them down these radically different paths. They don’t know the right words, they just know what they want- to express themselves as girls do- and exploring what that might mean with adults pushes them one way or the other.

Or they could have different personalities. Both groups are challenging convention, but in different ways. I hate challenging convention, myself, I just want to fit in, and calling myself a woman seemed a way to fit in as best I could.

A recent meta-analysis of studies of gender transition shows benefits from surgical and hormonal treatment for gender dysphoric individuals: Among the positive outcomes of gender transition and related medical treatments for transgender individuals are improved quality of life, greater relationship satisfaction, higher self-esteem and confidence, and reductions in anxiety, depression, suicidality, and substance use. Yet this Boy-group does not want such treatment, and to tell them they were trans against their will, far worse to foist medical treatment on them, would be unethical. Many people can relate to the idea that sterilisation is bad for a person, to be denied even if they crave it.

We cannot make deductions about one of those groups from the experience of the other. Just because Lori’s son insists he is a boy, does not mean that the trans girls are. Just because he does not want medical treatment does not mean they should be denied it. We just don’t know. We can’t have a control group, of people who want transition and are denied it, to prove transition improves anyone’s situation. Possibly, he would have claimed to be a trans girl, in different circumstances: and if he claims to be one, then he is one, for there is no other way of knowing who is trans.

My solution for this is to make it less fraught. By the time either group has gone to school in a skirt, they have worn down intense resistance from family and friends, and shown they are willing to face standing out in a way often deliberately shamed. It takes courage and determination. If boys in skirts were no big deal, playing with dolls, whether every day or only some days, we could find what they really want.

Trans children II

Which would you prefer? To be always noticeable as a trans woman, to be subject at any time to others’ prejudices, but to be fertile and able to father a child, or to be indistinguishable from any other woman, albeit one without a womb, but sterile? Can you decide, aged even 18, whether you will want children at some time?

It is possible to defer puberty until a child makes the decision whether to transition permanently, and then give cross-sex hormones. Many adult trans women would like to have been so treated. Passing matters. We flourish better if we are not constantly worried about other’s real or imagined prejudices. You can adopt, or foster. Clever things might be done with stem cells: ordinary skin cells may be converted into stem cells.

Any use of cross-sex hormones, even with a natural puberty, might affect fertility. Never using cross-sex hormones might make passing more difficult.

Doctors do not make people “well”. They have a number of treatments which might improve a person’s condition. They do plastic surgery where there is no medical need. I do not believe in a discrete group which is transsexual, which will clearly benefit from transition. Our circumstances and our resilience affect whether we can make a go of life, and whether that should be as male or female. I can imagine a regret of either course. A doctor might want their patient to fight for puberty-blockers, so that the doctor could not be blamed later for loss of fertility.

An adult knows it will not grow back.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists position paper acknowledges the need for better evidence on the outcomes of pre-pubertal children who present as transgender or gender-diverse, whether or not they enter treatment. Until that evidence is available, the College believes that a watch and wait policy, which does not place any pressure on children to live or behave in accordance with their sex assigned at birth or to move rapidly to gender transition, may be an appropriate course of action when young people first present.

That says nothing. “First present”- what about after? It gives discretion to the doctor involved, to suppress puberty if they decide it is appropriate. Doctors might want a wide range of options, but not to be blamed for any of them. I do not blame doctors for the treatment which I wanted, and want them generally free of blame- it means that others can choose what I chose. If we blamed the doctors for wrongful treatment, we make their gatekeeping more onerous on those who follow us. We have to make these decisions for ourselves.

The mood of the paper is limiting treatment. “Better evidence on outcomes”- we fear this means, no puberty blockers. Parents and children can be particularly keen on puberty blockers.

I like the idea of the child following their own desires. Let them find what way suits them. I would like children to be able to experience both presentations side by side- to be able to go to school as boy or girl as they wished on the day. The RCP will not say that: The Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Education should ensure all schools provide appropriate staff training and have clear policies that support transgender children. These include tackling bullying, effective safeguarding, parental concerns, and practical considerations (such as appropriate language, use of toilets and changing rooms, and uniforms). They make no suggestion what that policy might be.

We want the best for children- and not in some ideal world but the world they must navigate, now and throughout life. That I regret a decision does not mean that I would be happier had I decided the other way. Life will be hard on gender diverse people whatever choices we make. Life is difficult for everybody.

Trans v Ultra-Orthodox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the locker room

The trans girl is in the girls’ locker room, in a cubicle with a curtain for privacy. Should the curtain be closed? Whose decision should that be?

The child retains her penis. Some teenagers can have puberty blockers- not without risk, but less risk than true-gender hormones, less final than surgery. She might want to be private about that, or no more private than the other girls, just getting changed together.

She might be less risk than a lesbian for staring at the other girls and getting aroused, if arousal is thought to be a risk to the cis girls. Androphile trans women claim they are more likely to transition young than us gynephiles. The trans girl is as attracted to boys as the other girls in the locker room. Teenagers have to learn to cope with not acting on arousal, both boys and girls.

Does she breach the other girls’ privacy?

There seem to be two principle risks in the minds of the transphobes: that the trans girl herself will assault other girls, or someone will pretend to be trans in order to get access to girls. But being trans is not necessarily attractive to girls. Judge us for what we do, not for what someone fears we might do. The hard right’s need to “protect” girls from people like me is a threat to me. People can get violent if they feel a need to “protect children”.

Whose decision should that be? The girl’s, herself. If she does not want to show her penis to the other girls, she should be entitled to her privacy. Forcing her to close the curtain, as if she were a threat, is harmful to her wellbeing, as her mother said.

Illinois school district 211 kept their federal funding, $6m of it. All the school pupils who spoke out, spoke in the trans girl’s favour. On other websites you will read what “Americans for everything Americans love” or whatever they call themselves- they would not call themselves “Transphobic Bullies Against Trans girls”- said. Ooh, ooh, they said something horrible! You will not read that here. You can imagine it. You know it’s bullying rubbish.

Her mother wrote, We knew that a big factor in whether our daughter would be fully accepted by her peers was whether the High School would treat her as a girl in all respects. If she was segregated, forced to use separate facilities, it would signal to others that it was acceptable to treat her differently. Not everyone would, of course- only the bullying cowards.

Trans children are normal and well-adjusted, if allowed to transition socially: see this research. This is International Women’s Day.

transgender penis tucked bikini yacht

Pink gendering

I am growing: I write about this differently from how I would have two days ago.

I was with parents of small children discussing potty-training, general stuff. A mother notices how rigidly gendered toys are: an art easel is either pink or blue, for goodness’ sake. Why can’t it be wooden, and wood-coloured? Fortunately, — is quite happy playing with “boy’s” or “girl’s” toys. At school, another child mocked his pink shirt, and he said, “Don’t you know, real men wear pink?” Wonderful, repartee in a six year old.

On the Tube, a woman gets on with a man and a girl. The woman clutches a cuddly toy penguin, a cuddly toy Santa, and a three foot high helium balloon with a picture of Disney’s Snow White on it.  She loses grip of Snow White, and the balloon hits the ceiling. I catch her eye and grin. “Nightmare,” she says. She pulls it down and it sticks out across the aisle to her daughter, who is sitting forward in the seat despite being told to sit back: as I watch, she caresses the plasticky surface of her balloon.

The thing I would not have written, would not have admitted, is that I was staring at that balloon with great interest and a mix of emotions. I notice the full petticoats and the shape of the pose. It is a symbol for the child, but also for me.

I absolutely agree that there is more than one way to be a girl, and that heavily stereotyped and limiting roles for girls are a bad thing: but not that Pink Stinks. By all means produce wooden easels, and encourage girls to play with chemistry sets and join the school debating team; but leave Disney Princesses alone, for me and those like me.

On the train, crowded with people standing, a man explained that there was one fewer carriage than there should be. Just to make conversation, what are you doing for Christmas? His sons are joining him. He does not know what men in their thirties have in common with him: they have all these electronic devices, and he does not understand them at all. He got off, and three women got on. I stared admiringly at one, in a long-haired fake fur pelt and a narrow headband with a row of fake pearls (large and quite spherical) surrounded by glittery stuff. The woman beside me wore a Christmas red jumper with a cartoon reindeer face on it. I commented that not everyone could carry a headband like that off, but she does, beautifully. The woman in the jumper agreed. They are off on a works night out, to see the musical Matilda and have dinner. She forgot the champagne- it was in her fridge chilling and everything. I condole. What work do you do? They work in a bank- she hopes that does not bore me, she apologises. No, not at all.

I have been in jeans too long. Sod comfort and fashion, I am wearing skirts more.


Artemisia Gentileschi, SusannaOooh look! A trans boy!

Katy commented, and her acolyte Pruett led me to this post with hundreds of comments. Lindsay writes that she was a tomboy as a child, and preferred “boy-things”, her friends were boys, but now she is happy as a wife and mother, who likes DIY (“man thing”) as well as nice clothes (“woman thing”) and therefore shows rigid division into male or female activities or ways of reacting or anything is ridiculous. And so is the phenomenon of transsexualism.

Then all Katy’s regulars, and hundreds on Lindsay’s post, showed off their writing ability, reasoning skills, empathy and common sense to a greater or lesser extent, all shaking their heads and expatiating on one of two main themes:

1. The parents are monsters, torturing their child for their own nefarious purposes, seeking notoriety perhaps, or being “liberal”, and the child could not possibly imagine herself to be a boy unless tortured by monsters; or

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith and her Maidservant2. The parents are idiots, letting the child follow a silly whim.

There is an intermediate position- the child had a silly whim, and the monster-parents are forcing “her” to go through with it, but it all boils down to, “Of course she’s a girl!!! How could it be otherwise? Transition is kooky and wacky and completely wrong and NO GOOD CAN COME OF IT.” Few suggest that the child, the parents, and any other involved adult, are doing their best and might have some idea how best to live their own lives. Katy has met the parents of a trans child, and can accept that the woman she has met might be doing her best, but not the mother she has not met, who is obviously a “trendy crusade junkie”.

Yet I, and thousands of others, go about our normal pursuits, transitioned.

Yesterday I mentioned Miriam, and her trans-exclusionist argument. It makes some sense. Some might say it was a valid argument. It appears to hang together. So I say to Miriam’s TERF friend,

 I don't care.

So she says to me “In saying that you are a typical trans, an M-T, you insult all women, you insult all women who have ever been victimised by the Patriarchy and you are part of the Patriarchy and you are the tool of the Patriarchy and the weapon of the Patriarchy against all women and you are using the Patriarchy to oppress women and perpetuating Rape Culture…” and I say

 I don't care.

And I go about my ordinary life, using women’s loos and changing rooms, and going to the lesbian weekend. Bit scared, even though they have said they accept lesbians who are trans women. Still going.

It’s all different world views. Take Tim, who has accumulated this vast store of argument to make the Bible literally true and inerrant, and in doing so has ripped out its poetry and metaphor and story. I debated with him far longer than I should have. Too much effort and too little chance of success. We might seem to be using words to communicate and argue logically, but we are not. Not really. He hears mine through his worldview and refutes it to his own satisfaction. There is nothing for me to say but

 I don't care.

Love and kisses to all. May God bless you and keep you and make God’s face to shine upon you, and give you peace.


van Gogh- Olive trees 1I met my neighbour today. He saw me bringing my wheelie-bin in, and followed me. So I went in my back door, and he stood on the mat, looking in, making wordless sounds. I told him he could come in if he wanted. This is my bicycle. He tapped the light, which was just below head-height on him. Then his grandmother came round after him, and called him out, scolding him, and apologising to me.

-He asked, and I said ‘yes’, I said, to excuse him.
-Sorry, no speak English, she said. At least she wasn’t accusing me of being a pervert.

His toys, a beautiful big lorry and an ambulance, were on a rug outside, as it was so warm, with his older sister’s tricycle.

At the bus stop, a lad was complaining about someone else at the college. “He said, ‘you said “Death be upon you!”‘ That’s stupid, fam. He doesn’t understand Arabic, he doesn’t have a clue, fam. My dad speaks Arabic.

“You could tell him anything! You could tell him Bismillah [in the Name of God] meant anything you like, and he would believe you. If you say Salaam Aleikum he says Salaam Aleikum.” Rather than van Gogh- Olive trees 2Wa-aleikum O-salaam, or indeed Slamakum- well, “Goodbye” is contracted from God be with you, then further to ‘bye. That was the first time I was aware of Muslims locally, there is a large Hindu temple on Victoria St and when it has come up Asians have been Hindu.

Not sure about the word “fam”. I guessed it meant something like calling a friend Family, close friend I can trust: to my mind, a need to keep telling someone “I trust you” implies something else, and also implies that those guys over there can’t be trusted, it’s just you an me, bro.

How do you spell ‘bide’? asked the child. Mmm. It is an odd word for a child, a bit archaic, dialecty, not a word I thought he would get in primary school. “As in I buy a toy”. Oh, it’s “bought”. Yes, it is a bit odd for a verb. I remember my nephew saying “goed”, when just learning to speak: he knew the general rule, and applied it.

There was a pong from the landfill, which is 2km away. You only smell it when the wind is in the right direction, but that is the prevailing wind. There used to be a pong from the chicken factory. I remember the Coupar Angus chicken factory, the smell of guts and death: far better to live the other side of Marsby.

Towards a meeting of minds

Avenue_of_Plane_Trees_near_Arles_Station (2)Children have a right not to be brought up by gay couples, because children suffer loss by not having connection with both biological parents.

Well. Children are separated from one or both biological parent in the cases of sterility of one heterosexual partner and artificial insemination, or by divorce, or death. Loss of connection with biological parents is no more an argument against gay parenting than against all infertility treatment.

There is a separate argument about whether children have a right to be brought up by opposite sex parents, for whatever reason. Well, my mother “wore the trousers” in their relationship, but I would rather exist than not- given the range of parenting situations, it is wrong to restrict only gay couples from having children, by legislation or by social shaming, by punishment or by restricting access to medically assisted fertility.

Research into gay parenting is unclear, not proving definitively that children of gay couples have as good outcomes as children of straight couples; and if their outcomes were worse, whether that was a result of prejudice against the parents, rather than a bad experience of family life. Problems include the paucity of research subjects, and lack of funding. In the absence of long term large scale quantitative studies, small scale qualitative studies provide useful evidence, if not definitive proof.

Given that Western society restricts parenting in only the most extreme situations, with social workers ready to take the baby from certain unfit mothers, there is no ground to restrict gay parenting unless it could be proved to be harmful. The onus of proof is on those who would restrict gay parenting.

Askme argued that there is insufficient research to show gay parenting is not harmful. In this post Violetwisp argues that separation from biological parents is not a good ground to restrict gay parenting, and provides a forum for two sides to meet. You may detect a tincture of sarcasm in her post. Do have a look. It seems to me that Askme is right on her narrow point that available research does not yet prove that gay parenting Avenue_of_Plane_Trees_near_Arles_Station (centre)produces at least equal outcomes, but Violet is right on the wider point that this gives no ground for restricting gay parenting.

So, we talk past each other.

This is an emotive subject, and the argument descends. The first comment gives an example of a parent whose insanity has taken the form of religious extremism. It is not, by itself an argument against religious people being allowed to be parents- insanity can take many forms- though there is such an argument, in that religious people often inculcate beliefs in their children which are harmful. So- arguments by religious people for restricting parenthood can simply be derailed by saying religious people should not be parents- even if the religious people are not making specifically religious arguments.

What brought me to post on this? “Hewhoshallnotbenamed”. He widens the argument onto gay marriage and gay parenting in general, making sweeping assertions including Homosexuality is an error. All species driving primary imperative is to reproduce and no one has produced any evidence to support Homosexuality being aligned with that goal. That makes me want to start railing, with sarcasm, rhetorical questions, dismissal and mockery. Any chance for a meeting of minds has gone.

I have drafted and redrafted this post, teasing out the disputes and arguments. There is certainly a place for encouraging our own side by stating the arguments and deriding the opposition. How much more difficult it is, to hear the opponent’s arguments and argue courteously.

Choosing the ground of an argument- what research shows, on whom should be the onus of proof, do children need caregivers of both sexes, is homosexuality natural- can give tactical advantage in arguing, but shifting the ground of argument just distances the parties further.

In my own comments there, I notice myself unconsciously alluding to particular grounds of argument with a brief summary of my side. This makes an argument against me either appear tedious and plodding, teasing out all the questions and answering them, or appear to fail to answer my points. I can express myself clearly and elegantly, but that requires effort.


Christmas II

Opening the presents

First, a Poem:Adjusting the balls

Please give way to the cyclist, cos the cyclist is me
I’m a squishy, breakable cyclist, and I don’t want to die you see
It’s fun to be a cyclist, in the sun with the wind behind-so-
Please give way to the cyclist, if you don’t mind.

Please give way to the motorist, if you don’t want your frame all bent.
I don’t want to deal with the paperwork, but I don’t mind a scratch or dent
The roads have a plague of cyclists, all getting in the way-so-
Please give way to the motorist, if that’s okay.

H meets me off the train, having taken an hour to drive to the station. The rain is lashing down, and the forecast is worse storms, but people have still got their last shopping. At home, I meet her cats, who are completely gorgeous, and welcome me in. I love to be sat on. Then they jump off, busily opening the presents and rearranging the tree decorations.

Best present for the child, 7, is a motorised ballerina. Press the button and her tutu spins round like the rotor of a helicopter. Up she goes, bounces off the ceiling with her rubber head, drops about two yards then moves upwards again. Her arms out, she rotates in a stately manner against the direction of her skirt. I would love a skirt like that: I have the legs for it! So has C, now 15, in a skirt which looks like a belt: her mother told her she could only wear it with opaque tights, but after I tell her with her black eyeliner she looks like a Goth, her legs are bare. She got an iPad Air, which means she can be completely sociable and ignore all the people around her. She is Snapchatting, a selfie with every text: another social media site I had not heard of.

If the ballerina is knocked off the vertical, she becomes unstable and falls. “Don’t fly it under the light!” says Daddy, with greater emphasis on the DON’T each time. I am unsure. When it breaks, how much upset will there be? Once you watch it going up and down, how much more excitement can you get from it? It is lovely for me, though, spending a day with the toys. She brings out her hamsters, with their black eyes, and H and I cuddle and coo over them. They have hollow plastic globes: put one in, and it can scuttle round the floor and not get stepped on, or escape. The balls are more fun than motorised toys, but they have to be put away before Granny comes, who does not like little mammals.

I have been coming here for ten years, after my father did not want me there after his marriage. I met H at a dinner my trans email support group held, to mark the death of one of us who had killed herself after she transitioned and could no longer see her children.