The transgender Tory

I am not surprised Britain’s first trans MP is a Tory. I was a Tory before I transitioned. Tory transphobia went with my internalised transphobia. Tory social authoritarianism went well with my desire to live according to “values” which did not fit me, and perhaps not anyone. Lots of closeted gay men were Tory MPs, voting against gay rights.

On Tuesday night (29 March) the Prime Minister joked to Tory MPs, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Or, as Keir Starmer would put it, people who are assigned female or male at birth.” Of course he misses the point: binary trans people don’t object to being called ladies or gentlemen particularly, it’s just nobody has a right to claim I am one, when I am the other. The objection is for nonbinary people. Johnson could have addressed Tory MPs as Friends, or Colleagues; he could have addressed a different group as “Honoured guests”. Language is far more elegant when you avoid the gender binary.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister lied to the House of Commons again, welcoming Dr Wallis: “I know that the House stands with you and will give you the support you need to live freely as yourself.” But it hasn’t. If it had, Johnson would not have cracked his “joke”, and Wallis would be transitioned. Keir Starmer echoed Johnson. Ian Blackford, the SNP leader, was the first to use pronouns: “I commend him for his statement earlier today.”

Crispin Blunt MP’s article in the New Statesman avoided pronouns entirely, always referring to Wallis by name. Pronouns after coming out but before transitioning expression are difficult. Will Wallis insist on she/her/hers pronouns? When will she transition? In her statement, and follow-up, she said that she intended to step down as MP before she did. Possibly she thought she would never be able to transition.

She also commented on that MPs’ dinner: “It was nice”. The PM jokes about trans people, and the trans person there just laps it up, because she has too much internalised transphobia to see the objection.

She’s been blackmailed, for £50,000. The attempt failed, and the blackmailer is in prison, but she did not come out then, and it shows how difficult she would find it to be out as trans, as a Tory MP. She crashed her car and ran away, perhaps when unfit to drive. I appreciate the stress she is under. Perhaps she did not think she would win the seat from her Labour predecessor, and could stand without the public exposure of being an MP. All this shows the transphobia of society, and the Tory party. Wallis writes about her rape.

I wrote her a brief supportive email, saying I am trans. She wrote back saying “For the time being, I will continue to present as I always have and will use he/him/his pronouns.” Of course. Because that is a more comfortable decision in her position, with the extreme transphobia that surrounds her.

On Thursday 31 March Blunt wrote that Tories “celebrate and want to represent and protect diversity”, and let people be ourselves. Rubbish. He wrote that after the government’s double U-turn, first saying it would not prohibit conversion attempts, then that it would prohibit them on sexual orientation but not gender identity. In the House of Commons, the minister Mike Freer said the government would bring forward legislation while every MP who spoke commended Wallis’ bravery. The minister Liz Truss wants to protect under 18s from irreversible decisions, a spokesman said, which means, banning medical treatment for trans youth.

Trans is just something people are. Why should it be “brave” to “admit” you are trans? Because of the hatred and vilification, the scaremongering, the monstering, that trans people receive. Because of the jokes of people from the Prime Minister down. Wallis is evidence: transphobia is enough to give us PTSD.

Nikki da Costa

The interview of Nikki da Costa on Radio 4 this week, giving her an unchallenged platform to attack trans people and trans rights, was reprehensible, but I will not be complaining. Before making a case against the interview, I make a case for it in order to see what I have to refute.

Da Costa argued that the law on conversion therapy should be delayed to make sure it was drafted properly. She claimed there was a risk that a therapist or parents who correctly challenged a teenager’s conviction that they were trans, who wanted to “really explore, slow down and check what’s happening”, could be at risk of accusations that they were engaging in conversion therapy, and an innocent person could be dragged through the courts.

What risks are there when a child presents as trans? The risk da Costa identifies is a risk to cis children, who are wrong to claim that they are trans. They could be gay or lesbian. Being autistic might make them unable to see they would be better off living in their birth gender. What if they “go down a medicalised pathway” and then revert? She did not say, but meant, their breasts or testicles, their voice, fertility and body hair distribution, could be irreversibly damaged.

It is hard to get cis people to admit there might be a risk to trans people too. Going through the wrong puberty, when it is theoretically avoidable, is traumatic and causes life-long avoidable problems with passing. Our acceptance should not depend on whether we pass or not, but passing makes a trans person’s life easier and gender dysphoria less. There is great anger and misery among the cis community when someone reverts, because the cis people think that proves they were never trans, but delaying transition seems unproblematic to them, however painful it is to us.

Getting them to accept that the trans child is traumatised is difficult. They care far more about the theoretical cis child in danger of unwise transition. So the question for cis people is, how can therapists appropriately “explore” the child’s needs? “Explore” is a neutral term, which they think entails challenging the child’s conviction they are trans. We know the therapist should want to “Really explore,” find what is right for the child and help them towards it, but this is threatened by the suggested prohibition of non-existent cis-to-trans conversion.

And then, generally I want journalists to bring to light allegations children might be at risk, even if against the consensus. Thalidomide was marketed for morning sickness for four years, affecting at least 10,000 children many of whom it killed, before it was withdrawn as a treatment. The trouble is that the few reverters have too great significance for them. To realise that some people are trans and transitioning benefits us is more empathy than they can manage.

As a trans person I see this interview as someone attacking trans rights and casting “transgender ideology” as a threat to children, at least needing balanced by someone in favour of trans, and ideally dismissed before it is aired. Listening to da Costa, I hear the ludicrousness of it. No-one will be “dragged through the courts” as an innocent party. The difficulty of proving conversion therapy is too great. No-one will be inhibited from exploring the child’s, or adult’s, desire to transition. But I don’t think cis people will have heard it that way.

Before complaining I want to make a case under the BBC’s own guidelines, and I don’t think it will work. I might make a case about the relative balance of opposition to protection of trans people against trans people standing up for our rights, but to do that would have to listen to the programme for an hour a day, and that is too much. The BBC publishes no record of who they interview, or about what, separate to the recordings.

It’s not balance to platform haters attacking trans, but you can’t convince the cis of that. There was terrible difficulty stopping the BBC from platforming climate change deniers, because of “balance”. After all, lots of highly paid lobbyists oppose action on climate change, as do many Times and Spectator columnists.

Da Costa went on to say Boris Johnson is a conviction politician, and the burden of doing the right thing over Brexit and Covid weighed heavily on his shoulders. Ridiculous! I cry. He has hobbled the British economy, and as he demanded “let the bodies pile high in their thousands”, 30,000 in January 2021 alone. But from the “Conservative” point of view of Nikki da Costa, he was seeking the good of the British people in abolishing regulations and going about our business unrestricted and unmasked.

The Conservative wants the sovereign individual to be free from legal restriction. Theirs is an individualist view. We on the Left see that a person is not free if they are not paid a living wage, may be sacked or evicted at whim, or are forced to risk infection by a deadly disease. It makes no practical difference whether an exporter is restricted by British law, or by French law, in exporting to France, so those in favour of private enterprise see British law should facilitate rather than inhibit the exporter and work with France to agree the rules rather than create different rules. However the radical Conservative only wants to repeal rules in British law, and apparently does not see how law may be for the common good.

In the same way da Costa’s opposition to conversion therapy law seeks freedom for the individual, rather than collective security the Left offers. For those on the Left, trans people are part of the Community, the We the People law should protect. Our wellbeing matters as much as cis people’s, or therapists’. For the Right, we do not. We can be simply portrayed as a Threat.

1 April: da Costa was on Today again, saying the same falsehoods. She says if trans conversion was illegal, therapists would be inhibited from exploring underlying issues. Rubbish. All that would be problematic would be a complete closed-minded denial that the patient was trans, or that transition might benefit them. Even then, they might not reach the discipline tribunal, let alone the criminal court, unless they attempted to change the child from being trans.

Andrew Griffiths- The Sunscreen Incident

Content: rape, coercive control, male entitlement. Andrew Griffiths was a Conservative MP from 2010 to 2019, and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, a junior minister, from January to July 2018, when he resigned because it was revealed he had sent 2000 sexts to two female constituents. In June 2019 Andrew Griffiths MP applied to court for contact with his child. His wife opposed the application, claiming he had been abusive.

They got together in 2008. She found out about the sexting in 2011, and also about an affair when the other woman turned up at the Conservative Party conference. She stayed with him until the sexting, which had continued, was reported, when their child was only a few months old. The judgment on the facts of the abuse was only issued on 26 November 2020 because of difficulties arranging the hearing.

Her barrister, Dr Charlotte Proudman, reports that the sexts included “I want to be able to lift your skirts over dinner and show my friends”. Griffiths paid for this service, and could not accept the impact on the women of such texts, or that they were in any way victims. He said he was addicted to pornography.

So it is not true to say that a powerful man has been held to account, as the Court of Appeal summary does. He was powerful when he raised the action, and told his wife she would not be believed because he was an MP, but disgraced by the time of the hearing, when Kate Griffiths had replaced him as MP for Burton. He claimed in court that he had had a hundred hours of psychotherapy, considering the impact on him of childhood sexual abuse and the death of his mother, but that he was now mentally well- being well might be necessary to get contact, and being ill might explain some of his behaviour. He was in considerable debt, and living with relatives. The judgment on the facts shows the kind of abuse he subjected his wife to, over their ten year relationship.

On several occasions he penetrated her while she was sleeping, and “The sunscreen incident” shows he thought he owned her. After his disgrace, he gave evidence in court that he had paid for everything on an expensive holiday, and so was very cross when his wife had not packed enough sunscreen for him: she should look after him. His exposure in the Press has not taken his sense of entitlement.

He admitted that he went to the safe in the hotel room, got out his wife’s passport and Euros and threw them at her, telling her to “fuck off out of my sight and get the next plane home”. He claimed this was “such an inconsequential row” because “I was just a bit pissed off”. He accepted that he pushed her onto the bed, and even that “putting hand on someone is assault”, but still said that she had reacted “theatrically” because his push was “not violent or forceful”.

In court, he said that he thought he had apologised afterwards. He said he loved his beautiful wife, and the judge took him to mean that he could not have behaved as he said, because of that Love. However, there were other assaults, including when his wife was eight months pregnant, and of a 74 year old man.

With the press about to reveal the sexting, he sent her a message begging her to stay with him in an apparent relationship to save his career. He said it could be without “sexual or touching rights”, but a relationship based on consent has no such rights.

On 30 April 2018 Griffiths came home from work to hear the child crying. He shouted at the child, whose name and sex cannot be given in the judgment, though I found it instantly through Wikipedia. He shouted, “Shut the fuck up, [name]”. I have great sympathy for parents worn out by their child’s crying. One or two have told me how they came so close to harming the child, and how glad they are they did not. He claimed in court that such anger was normal and ordinary, and it was said in a quiet voice. The judge did not believe him. The child was not yet three weeks old.

The judge considered Griffiths’ attempt to blame his second suicide attempt on the mother’s refusal of Christmas contact an example of continuing coercive behaviour. The Court of Appeal said that his attempts to prevent publication of the details was a further attempt at control. Even in the last few weeks, he was still at it: his application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was late, and would represent a misuse of the court process.

He continued his mad flailing to the bitter end. This is her official portrait from 2019 as a new MP (Wikimedia).

British Government to ban conversion therapy?

The British government is not going to ban conversion therapy. Instead they are going to start a consultation. They could look round the world at legal bans, or look at what expert bodies have published, but instead they are going to ask religious bodies their thoughts about religious freedom, that is, freedom to preach that LGBT is Abomination unto the Lord, and the usual nutcase transphobes about how trans medical treatment is “conversion therapy” against lesbian and gay people.

They are also writing, still, about “conversion therapy”. It is not therapy! Sometimes it is pseudo-therapy, aping some aspects of therapy- there might be a psychologist, talking to a person about their thoughts and feelings- but it is the opposite of therapy, as it seeks to prevent the person expressing their true self, and seeks to force them into a conventional understanding of what it is to be a man or woman. And sometimes, it avoids the appearance of therapy, as when a priest laid hands on me and prayed to God that I stop cross-dressing. That is an abuse of power, and should be criminal. The pretence that an attack on someone’s core being is “therapy” or “the Love of God” is one of its most damaging aspects.

It is anti-SOGI conversion practices. SOGI, sexual orientation and gender identity, should be clear enough for anyone to understand or look up. Call it what it is.

Liz Truss started with a lie: “As a global leader on LGBT rights”. Most advances on LGBT rights have come about under a Labour government, and equal marriage would have been defeated by Tory rebels without Labour support. Ten years later, the British government is definitely falling behind. So, no, it has not “always been committed to stamping out” anti-SOGI conversion practices, or it would have done so by now.

She writes of “the coercive… practice of conversion therapy”. I had two experiences, of having a psychiatrist and psychologist attempt to stop me cross dressing, and having a priest lay hands on me to cure me. I sought them out. In that moment, they were voluntary, not coercive. The coercion had happened many years before. My apparent free choice of conversion therapy was from programming. My recovery is proceeding many years after.

How will they “protect the medical profession”? The medical profession have ethics rules against conversion practices.

I am bothered about “upholding religious freedom”. Children are taken to worship, or to coaching by religious bodies, and when there are children present such religious bodies should not be inveighing against gay people or trans people, because they may damage gay or trans children present. Ideally, they should not be preaching a heteronormative family structure of Mummies and Daddies. The Rev Tina Beardsley explains some debate on conversion practices in the Church of England.

Even adults who have bought into religious structures, and find community there, or fear ostracism if they come out, are intensely vulnerable before homophobic or transphobic preaching. I do not want it argued that a gay man can decide to be celibate for religious reasons and is entitled to support in that from his church.

The religious bodies have the power, and LGBT+ folk are hurt. Where people realise they have been damaged by that religious power, they should be able to claim compensation for that damage.

When will this happen? After a consultation. The trans consultation was announced in 2017, launched a year later, and only this month the Government acted- to reduce the costs of getting a GRC, slightly, but keep the greatest cost, that of getting medical evidence. Then, “as soon as parliamentary time allows”. Don’t hold your breath.

Meanwhile Liz Truss and her rabble preach hate against trans people.

Real and conventional feelings

How does it feel, to be real?

I am scrolling facebook, feeling the things one feels scrolling facebook. At a joke I feel happy. At something moving, I feel moved. At something political, I feel the feeling appropriate for my tribe- anger or hope, derision or inspiration. Other tribes feel the same feelings at different stimuli. These are simple feelings I share with many people. It is easy to know the right feeling, and to feel good at feeling it. So facebook is a warm comfort-blanket, insulating me from reality. I could be plugged into the Matrix.

There is something I promised to do. Scrolling, I am only dimly aware of it. I will do that later, and that makes me feel mostly OK about not doing it though later never comes. The conventional feelings get in the way.

I close my computer. How do I feel about what I promised to do? I do not want to do it. I feel fear. I sit with that and discern underneath that is a feeling of hopelessness: I find myself creating arguments why doing it is counter-productive, and though I promised I would be forgiven for not doing it. And also self-loathing, at perceived uselessness, which is exacerbated by scrolling facebook. I am writing this today because I did what I promised, just in time. Yesterday I did not, because I got into arguing with a transphobe on facebook.

Doing it, I have fantastic things going through my mind and realise they are symbols or indicators of anger. The anger, now, is at something particular, and energy for the task I am completing. It is so good when that happens. I take care to complete the task: this requires love. Doing it at another time, I gave myself encouraging pep-talks. Do you still feel the fear? Yes. It’s not enough to stop you doing it, though. There is the feeling being and something else giving the pep-talks.

This is human. When I find myself bullying myself, that is probably a bad thing, but an inner dialogue, from two different points of view, can be advantageous: just as a group of people will make a better decision than individuals, so an individual may make a better decision having worked through different ways of thinking about a problem.

The only motivation is desire. If the desire is merely to survive, it wears us out. I need desire in my life that is more inspiring.

A Tory party leaflet, before the local elections. Vote Conservative because of the vaccine, it says! Ha! We have vaccine success because of public enterprise, with only a tiny input from business required by Tory ideology, because that particular public enterprise has not been Toried yet. Bribe-taking, body-piling, trans-hating, racist, lying Tories!

Looking for the art-work for this post, I had an experience I have not had since the last time I went to the National Gallery, over a year ago. With this Vermeer on my screen, I was overwhelmed with delight at the beauty of the pure colours, and their relationship to each other- that blue of the table-cloth, and the yellow of the sleeve, as an abstract composition before I spend time on the skin, and then the facial expression. It is ravishing. I get that experience with real art in galleries, and rarely with copies on screens. If you don’t get that with this picture, I hope you have it, somewhere in your life.

Amy Dyess

“We were constantly triggered. Now I realize we were used as pawns in a culture war. It was never about defending and strengthening lesbians. The goal was to divide our community.” Social media does not keep anyone informed. Keeping us triggered is the point. Keeping us angry, defensive, fearful. Amy Dyess has revealed the hate and fear of the anti-trans campaigners, who she calls “gender critical”. She quotes their propaganda in her article, and it is vile, saying trans rights is persecuting lesbians. Amplifying it made her feel needed, that she was helping lesbians, giving her good feelings when her life was so difficult.

She was brought up evangelical, and people said it was immoral for her to marry. Some trans or allies’ tweets “saying lesbians were hateful for not liking penises” seemed lesbophobic to her, even though she is sometimes attracted to trans women. Perhaps they were. She was insecure and in pain, so open to “GC” propaganda. Her recruiter love-bombed her, and co-ordinated action against “Diva, PinkNews, Autostraddle, Juno Dawson, Grace Petrie, Ruth Hunt, Ellen Page, Chase Strangio, Rhea Butcher, and so many more”.

Amy Dyess was living in a car, working full time and trying to get a better job. She was groomed to go on TV to put the gender critical case. She was offered a house. Rosa Freedman, who distanced herself from the Republican and Evangelical right, offered to fly her to Britain, and have her speak at different events. Julie Bindel paid some of her expenses. There’s a lot of money in the GC movement. Much of it comes from Republicans (Julie Bindel spoke out against that).

“Gender-critical” Memoree Joelle, former editor of AfterEllen, supported Donald Trump.

When Amy Dyess considered suing Twitter for discriminating against women’s free speech, the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) proposed she got funding and support from religious right organisations.

Hands Across The Aisle, a religious right organisation seeking out wedge issues to detach leftists from the Democratic Party, worked with Posie Parker and produced anti-trans content as well as the founder’s homophobic content. Julia Beck, Meghan Murphy of Feminist Current, and Julia Long also worked with HATA.

Amy Dyess is against “political lesbianism”, “the harmful idea that women can ‘choose’ to be lesbians and strategically deny men sex”, “an anti-lesbian ideology”. She did not feel safe at WPUK events because Judith Green attacked her for criticising political lesbianism. “Lesbian rights depend on ‘born this way’,” she says. I disagree. It’s nobody’s business who you go to bed with but yours. “Born that way” might make some homophobes relent, a little, on their homophobia, but if they think lesbianism is not a perfectly reasonable choice, needing no justification, they are still homophobic.

I am not sure of the rigid boundary between straight, gay and bi. A woman I knew married a man and had a daughter, and I think she thought she was straight. Then she had an overwhelming affair with a woman, and told me she was lesbian. Then she went back to her husband. “Political lesbianism” could be a cover for a bi woman, and there is biphobia among LGBT folk (internalised in the B). Or a woman who had always been attracted to men could find herself attracted to a woman, and call herself a “political lesbian” because she found it reassuring. “Gold star lesbian” is the mocking phrase for someone who tells others she’s only ever been with women, and makes a point of it.

“I didn’t think that I was anti-trans, but looking back over the screenshots it’s clear that I was.” She still had trans friends in real life.

She wanted kindness, and I feel she misunderstands #fuckkind. The point is that being kind and considerate of men’s feelings is part of women’s socialisation. #fuckkind can be liberating. Who should you listen to, or pay attention to? Kind should be a choice not an obligation. If we could all stand up for our rights, and hear each other without being triggered, we might work together. LGBT+ should be allies despite all the tensions, because the prejudice from straightworld is so much greater. But we are traumatised, and triggerable.

1 December: Amy Dyess has written again about the cult of “gender-critical“. She says escapees need reconnection, protection and recovery. They need to reconnect with the loved ones they pushed away, and with former friends. Protection: some angry and desperate GCs will slander you. “If you’re sincere, most trans people will give you a break.” And, Recovery: unpacking what happened, which may require therapy. “There’s life after GC,” she says.

Trans women need LGB people and cis women as allies

If a trans-excluder says that vulnerable women would be scared, seeing me in a women’s loo or changing room, I am silenced. My friends say, “Nonsense!” robustly, and I need that protection, because I am put into such a state of misery and fear that I cannot speak for myself. I just want to hide.

Saying I am dangerous, or that people reasonably fear me, is a threat, because it means that someone might feel justified in attacking me, to defend those vulnerable others. And, more, it raises echoes in me, of being the outsider, not accepted, which may be pre-verbal. It knocks the stuffing out of me. I am terrified. I lose all my energy.

So I am glad to have robust allies against the government’s plan to take away all protection for trans people. The pledge of the minister, Liz Truss, to “protect single-sex spaces” means working to exclude me, and a Tory peer’s extension of that principle to clothes-shops changing rooms show what they want. It is an emergency. Having caused thousands of unnecessary deaths, and repeatedly lied about the number of covid tests performed, they need out-groups for the populace to hate as our anger grows.

First up, the LGBT Foundation. This Manchester charity has been supporting and representing lesbians and gay men for over forty years. They have drafted an open letter to the minister for cis women to sign, to say they do not fear us. Please share it and get as many cis women- lesbian or straight- as possible to sign.

They point out, the language you have used is very similar to the anti-trans rhetoric used by transphobic hate groups and organisations such as Woman’s Place UK, Transgender Trend and the LGB Alliance. They say the evidence shows trans women are mostly harmless, and that medical treatment for trans youth is in the young people’s interest- as you would expect of medical treatment by NHS doctors. An actual, urgent feminist issue is that in covid lockdown intimate partner violence has increased, and they suggest the minister directs her attention to that instead.

We do not need protecting from trans people. Please focus on protecting us from the dangers that are killing women right now. If the Tory attack on trans people succeeds, they will come after lesbians and gays next.

This week, Liberty, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued a joint statement. They say we are treated as outsiders without rights, and as always At times of crisis and political change, marginalised groups are often singled out for abuse and hate. We are not heard, but dehumanised, made to defend who we are. In Hungary, Russia and the US trans people suffer vicious attacks on our rights: We cannot allow this to happen here.

Trans men need allies too; but the attacks are different. Trans men are attacked as pitiable and mutilated, trans women as perverted and dangerous. Both are attacked as deluded. Allies point out the attacks are baseless.

Emma Nicholson

Does Emma Nicholson have no idea what the law is about trans people? Does she want people to think so? Or does she just want to cause a huge twitterspat? She got 1400 likes and 410 retweets, and has hardly been off twitter since.

She wrote to Marks and Spencer that they should not allow trans women in women’s changing rooms, and tweeted a copy. First she claimed expertise as “Conservative Party Vice Chair with Special Responsibility for Women”; then she said “I believe you may wish to follow the government’s line and resume single sex spaces for the changing rooms in your stores”. No Trans Women!!!

Then the lie, the blatant, clear wrong interpretation of the Equality Act: “the Equality legislation allows no self-identification of gender”.

This is what the Act says: A person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if the person is proposing to undergo…a process… for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex. Once I propose, I am protected, even if I have not yet seen a psychiatrist.

She claims that “girls from most if not all minority faiths will find it more and more difficult to persuade their parents of the benefits of clothes shopping in your stores while their personal integrity may be open to accusations of lack of protection by their communities.” So, the daughters of religious parents now have to ask their parents’ permission to shop for clothes.

She attached her speech in the House of Lords on 24 February 2020 where she claimed trans people, to be protected, needed to intend physiological change. “A man could wear a frock, rouge and nail gel every day of the week for ten years without qualifying for the protected characteristic of gender reassignment.” They cannot resist mockery, these transphobes. They hold courageous people living our lives freely in complete disdain. Such a trans woman would be protected.

“Rouge,” indeed. I don’t wear foundation, I haven’t since I was having all that electrolysis and my skin is good enough without it, so I looked up what people who aren’t in the House of Lords call it. I called it blusher twenty years ago, and now it is “contouring”. Emma dear, your use of the word “rouge” dates you, not us.

Her letter to Marks and Spencer goes further. Even if I took along my GRC to show to the shop assistants, if her position in her letter was enforced I would have to be directed to the men’s. My local M&S has cubicles in the changing room, with barriers between, and doors, from floor to ceiling.

However the Equality Act and the Gender Recognition Act use the words “sex” and “gender” interchangeably.

She also wrote to the minister, saying that some guidance for schools was inaccurate.

So what is she doing? Jean Hatchet pointed out that Nicholson is not a feminist, but this was dismissed as “grievance archaeology”. Nicholson supported Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, which prevented local authorities from “promoting homosexuality”, and suppressed gay rights campaigning. But Nicholson has been bathing in the adulation of trans-excluders since her tweet.

The government in the UK has made a greater mess of the Covid pandemic even than the Trump administration. I am not surprised they want to spread hatred of minorities. Nicholson is a stalking-horse, sent out to say the most outrageous things, to see the public reaction before the government makes its response to the consultation it promised three years ago. Nicholson was kicked out of the House of Commons in 1997, when the last disastrous Tory government expired. Now, because righteous anger at all the needless deaths should force them out of government, they want to raise hatred against me and people like me.

The Marks and Spencer reply was measured.

We sympathise with the points you raise and strongly believe that our customers need to feel safe and secure in our fitting rooms… Our changing facilities consist of individual, private, lockable cubicles… Although they are not labelled for “men” or “women”, are used by customers of a single gender/sex. The system works effectively. There are customers who have adopted a sexual identity which they are entitled to do and we respect their right to choose… We expect all customers to respect the privacy of other customers… Our colleagues exercise discretion and common sense to ensure everyone using the fitting rooms is safe and feels comfortable… I hope this information is helpful and thank you once again for taking the time to write to me.

In other words, go forth and multiply. But Nicholson never expected M&S to bow to her crude pressure; she wanted to send out a signal on behalf of the government. If they can, they will make trans women into an out-group, to be hated. They must be shown this will not profit them.

An open letter to my MP, about the British Government’s threat to trans rights

I write to you because I am extremely concerned about recent ministerial statements about gender recognition. The ministers show a lack of understanding of the law and of medical understanding of gender dysphoria. In particular, gender recognition on the basis of the trans person’s self-declaration will pose no threat to women’s single-sex services, as English law already recognises trans people in our chosen gender for most purposes. I am concerned that the ministers’ misunderstanding threatens a restriction of my rights in law as a trans woman. The ministers propose to restrict medical treatment for trans children, and so do not show proper respect for medical expertise or children’s needs.

On 3 March 2020, in response to a written question, Elizabeth Berridge said in the House of Lords,

Those seeking to rely on the protections and exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2020 [sic] must be able to do so with confidence and clarity. The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s statutory codes of practice on the Equality Act 2010 explain the provisions of the Act and the EHRC is responsible for updating these codes as necessary.

This Government has been clear that we must take the right steps to protect safe single-sex spaces for women and girls; their access should not be jeopardised. Some women’s organisations have expressed concern that predatory men may abuse the gender recognition system, intended to support transgender adults. We have heard these concerns and are considering carefully our next steps.

On 22 April, in a speech to the Women and Equalities Select Committee, Liz Truss said,

The final point I’d like to make, Madam Chairman, in this initial part, is on the issue of the Gender Recognition Act. We’ve been doing a lot of work internally, making sure we’re in a position to respond to that consultation and launch what we propose to do on the future of the Gender Recognition Act. We will be in a position to do that by the summer, and there are three very important principles that I will be putting place.

First of all, the protection of single-sex spaces, which is extremely important.

Secondly making sure that transgender adults are free to live their lives as they wish without fear of persecution, whilst maintaining the proper checks and balances in the system.

Finally, which is not a direct issue concerning the Gender Recognition Act, but is relevant, making sure that the under 18s are protected from decisions that they could make, that are irreversible in the future. I believe strongly that adults should have the freedom to lead their lives as they see fit, but I think it’s very important that while people are still developing their decision-making capabilities that we protect them from making those irreversible decisions. Of course some of these policies have been delayed, Chair, by the specific issues around Covid but I can assure you that alongside the Covid work, our officials continue to do those things to make them happen.

Both ministers refer to the protection of single-sex spaces, and Elizabeth Berridge specifically states “concern that predatory men may abuse the gender recognition system”. This misunderstands the way the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010 work, and how psychiatrists understand gender dysphoria. For almost all purposes, we have self-declaration of trans people already.

The International Classification of Diseases provides a definition of gender identity disorders including transsexualism, which is defined as,

A desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by a sense of discomfort with, or inappropriateness of, one’s anatomic sex, and a wish to have surgery and hormonal treatment to make one’s body as congruent as possible with one’s preferred sex.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association defines gender dysphoria as follows:

A marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender, of at least 6 months duration, as manifested by at least two of the following:

1. a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and primary and/or secondary sex characteristics (or, in young adolescents, the anticipated secondary sex characteristics).

2. a strong desire to be rid of one’s primary and/or secondary sex characteristics because of a marked incongruence with one’s experienced/expressed gender (or, in young adolescents, a desire to prevent the development of the anticipated secondary sex characteristics).

3. a strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the other gender.

4. a strong desire to be of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender).

5. a strong desire to be treated as the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender).

6. a strong conviction that one has the typical feelings and reactions of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender).

In both definitions, the patient’s desire or belief is paramount. I am a trans woman because I believe I am. There is no other way of diagnosing: only what the person says and does. We transition, because we cannot avoid it, because we want it more than anything else in the world.

In terms of using single sex spaces, the presence of trans women was tolerated long before either Act. When I saw my psychiatrist in 2001, he gave me a card stating that I was undergoing treatment for transsexualism and it was part of the treatment to dress female and use women’s spaces. I never had to show it to someone. Before I saw the psychiatrist I spent a long time preparing to transition, because I was scared, and felt the need to check out whether I could bear the hostility and discrimination. So I expressed myself female and went out- to the supermarket as well as the gay pub, including women’s loos. People tolerated me. I only wanted to pee. I am not sure what law applied, then.

The law now protects people as soon as we decide to transition. It is in the Equality Act 2010 s 7:

A person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if the person is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.

So as soon as a person decides to transition they are protected, and for purposes of changing rooms and toilets we go to those of the gender we are expressing. We self-declare: I am a trans woman, because I say that I am. I should not be discriminated against as a trans woman, whether or not I have a gender recognition certificate. I express myself as a woman, and so should be treated as a woman.

But we can still be excluded from women’s spaces, under the Equality Act 2010 schedule 3 paragraphs 28-30. We can be excluded if it “is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.

Elizabeth Berridge echoed concerns about predatory men, but Layla Moran MP answered those concerns comprehensively, in 2018. In a debate she said,

Let us assume that someone wants to go into a women-only space for nefarious purposes. That [gender recognition] would be quite a stupid thing to do because, apart from anything else, if an offence was committed it would show evidence of premeditation, which would increase the person’s sentence. Also, had the certificate been gained for the sole purpose of entering such a space to commit a crime, that would be a separate crime under ​the Fraud Act 2006. If someone was intent on harming women, that would be one of the stupider ways of doing it.

Gender recognition does not affect any of these matters. Section 9 of the Gender Recognition Act states the person’s gender becomes the acquired gender, as does the sex, but this is “subject to provision made by this Act or any other enactment or any subordinate legislation”. That includes the Equality Act.

Before the Gender Recognition Act, I got a passport saying that my sex was “F”, and a driving licence indicating in the driver number that I am female. The guidance now on passports is here, and on driving licences here. A transgender person only needs a letter from their doctor to change their passport, and a statutory declaration or deed poll changing their name to change their driving licence. We do not need a GRC.

So, why do people get gender recognition certificates? In 2004, a friend got one because it entitled her to claim her state retirement pension early, and at the time it affected whether people would enter a civil partnership or a marriage, but after the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 that no longer applies. I got my gender recognition certificate because it was there. The law could officially declare that I was a woman, so I wanted that. However the current procedure is generally recognised as intrusive and expensive.

Because the junior minister is echoing groundless fears about “predatory men” and the Secretary of State refers to “checks and balances” I fear that my rights to be treated as a woman may be reduced. The law helps mold society’s response to trans people. Discrimination law protects me, and creates a moral injunction to treat me decently. Talk of how my rights may endanger women reduces that. Because of the campaigns against trans women I have suffered personal abuse and threats on line.

I want you to express these matters to the ministers, explaining that their fears are groundless, and ask them to assure me the rights of trans people will not be curtailed. I would like you to express your personal views to me, and answer these questions: would you oppose any diminution of trans rights under law? Would you support reform of gender recognition, to dispense with the requirement of evidence beyond the trans person’s word, formally sworn or affirmed, as Theresa May promised in 2017?

I am particularly concerned about the Secretary of State’s remarks about the treatment of children. She says that she wants to protect under 18s from irreversible decisions. This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of treatment for trans children and young people.

It should not be for the law or the government to interfere in medical decisions for children. These decisions should be made by doctors, parents and the children themselves according to Gillick competence in the best interests of the children. Irreversible decisions are not made by children. The NHS can treat under 18s with puberty blocking hormones, which are reversible. For evidence of this, for example consider the Australian standards of care and treatment guidelines.

Social transition of transgender children, not necessarily involving any hormone treatment, improves their mental health.

Please may I see you about this. During the lockdown, are you holding surgeries by video conference?