Discussing trans rights with people who don’t care

Some people do not know what LGBT stands for. Being online gives a false perspective. Being interested in trans rights, we could scroll for hours a day and still read only a tiny proportion of the insane hatred devoted to rolling back trans rights, and the resistance to it. Twitter, facebook, etc, are desperate to show us transphobia in the hope we will engage, but usually only those already invested look.

I wanted Greens to know Shahrar Ali was making his pitch to anti-trans campaigners, so shared my blog. Mad haters plunged in: one alleged that Ali was being targeted by Zionists for his support for the Palestinians. Unfortunately, I called them “mad haters”, which makes me seem angry and confrontational, not good on a Green forum. Another went to the drafter of the Labour Party Transphobes’ Declaration and passed on her scurrilous accusations against me.

By using the term “mad haters” I had a tactical loss. I defended it- they are “mad” in that they are divorced from reality, only caring about opposing trans rights and not any other party issue; and they are haters, demanding the exclusion of absolutely every trans woman from all women’s spaces. And I was still rebuked, and warned to use constructive language, by people who apparently thought claiming a Jewish conspiracy was absolutely fine. She’s not attacking Jews, she’s attacking “Zionists”. Yeah, right.

Then someone wrote, “I certainly wouldn’t be happy with a Green party that didn’t support trans rights, but it doesn’t seem to me Shahrar wouldn’t. He explicitly says he supports the Equality Act.”

I wasn’t sure about that. Was this an anti-trans campaigner who had the knack of appearing reasonable? Ali does not say he supports the Equality Act, only “all the protected characteristics”. Anti-trans campaigners say they “support trans rights”, meaning trans rights as they define them- a right not to be harassed in the street or be sacked for being trans, but not a right for trans women to use women’s loos. But if someone could not recognise a trans flag, they would not spot that nuance by themselves.

So I explained, and met another question: How is ‘sex based rights’ code for excluding trans women? I explained that too. To my slight surprise she accepted my argument, saying people should accept the “single-sex” services in the Equality Act should include trans women. Then, rather than putting an argument, she was thinking out loud as she typed, she said some women felt vulnerable and threatened by trans inclusion. Could we work together?

No, is the answer to that. They make it a zero sum game- no trans women in women’s spaces, ever. They could see what they gain by trans inclusion, and work for a range of spaces, but they would be affronted to be restricted to some out of the way loo which was for trans-excluders, with the women’s for all women. But this woman has Green sympathies- For the Common Good- and likes to think people can always work together.

And then she said, if Shahrar supports the EA, surely he supports trans women in women’s spaces? I had to explain the other code he uses, around “politically homeless” women and “sex-based rights”. She still thought there was some doubt, and a need to help both sides of the “debate” to understand each other. Only a direct question to “Shahrar” would clear it up, but he isn’t answering.

-Do you still think there is doubt?
-The vast majority would not read Shahrar’s site the way you do. And trans people need to listen to the excluders, and hear their concerns.

She is right on that. People would not read it that way, unless they are engaged with the debate. They do not read it closely, and don’t particularly think about the bits they don’t understand- of course no novelist should receive a death threat for writing a think piece, and they don’t bother asking which novelist he means.

From Sara Ahmed, I get the understanding that people do not like to believe their social group contains bad people such as sexual predators, or those who discriminate on gender, colour or sexuality. So, they find accusations of bad behaviour a threat. The accusations and the accusers threaten their comfortable illusion that everything is OK. Surely Professor Smith would not do such a horrible thing? Diversity policies are put in place as proof that the organisation acts properly on diversity, not as a template for action against discriminators.

So I asked her directly. Now I have explained the code, do you accept Ali is calling for trans exclusion? I explained the whole screed again. And I was rewarded. “I think the issue here is exactly as you say.” But then, she immediately qualified. She still wanted a straight answer from Ali to “clear things up” and could see that Ali’s site could be interpreted as innocuous.

Even LGBT+ people disagree on what letters to add to the end, or what they stand for. QIA- Allies? Asexual? Both? I have seen a strong argument that Allies are definitely not included. The mad haters have created a jargon all their own. “Sex is Real” they say, and only the trans excluders and trans people, only people who have scrolled for hours and hours, see the pure nastiness they put in that phrase. It is hard to persuade the unengaged, and has to be done with great care.

Still, it’s lovely to think of someone who gets sympathy when she whines on a mad hater group, “I can’t go out, because there are no single-sex toilets anywhere! I haven’t bought new clothes in five years because there’s only mixed sex changing rooms to try them on!” Then she tries that with unengaged people, and meets perplexity and derision. If instead she stokes paranoia- trans women are dangerous, penises in women’s loos, etc- she may put off the Left-wingers, as she is more clearly spreading hate.

Talking to an anti-trans campaigner

We zoomed for an hour. She ranted for the first twenty minutes.

I saw how paltry were her Gotchas. The absolute facts, which show she and her like are in the right, are victims, include Tara Wolf’s assault. She named Tara’s victim. Then there was a point of their Badness, or their Goodness, which I don’t care about but somehow we both had at our fingertips. So called “Gender-critical” demonstrators were racist at Black Lives Matter demonstrators! BLM has repudiated that, she claims. I really don’t care, but it shows our level of detail and the lengths we go to.

She has a logical basis to her arguments which misses out a great deal of reality but appeals to such people. What is a woman is based on genes, gonads and genitals. Even intersex women are women because of primary or secondary sexual characteristics at birth. Trans women are men, so should no more be in women’s spaces than a seahorse in a stable (my analogy: I cannot resist these plays with words).

She knows that vulnerable women need a space where they will be completely certain that no trans woman could ever come. I questioned her on that. She admitted there are so few trans women, but still asserted the possibility a trans woman might enter would take away the safety.

Then she claims a right to organise as a protected characteristic- to meet and campaign- which I cannot find in the Equality Act. Her protected characteristic is sex, so women with these views should be able to meet and campaign together without objection. She also seems to misunderstand the provisions about excluding trans women from women’s spaces, which assume that trans women are women.

She is wrong about all this, but her certainty is undentable. That we are a tiny, vulnerable minority, and that we can evade transition only by continuing suffering, does not matter to her at all. She is the victim. Lesbians are victims. I say, what about Diva, the lesbian magazine, and Stonewall, whose chief executive was Ruth Hunt, a lesbian, from 2014, now succeeded by Nancy Kelley, also a lesbian. They don’t speak for her, and she resents this.

She dismisses my Gotchas. Right wing? WoLF took a strategic decision, as they could not get funding anywhere else, that one time. Then she mentions a self-hating trans, as if she does not remember that trans writes repetitive, derivative rubbish for The Spectator. I talk of the Times, and she says it is less anti-trans after the editor changed.

On the Labour Party, she does not think she damages it by launching her “Declaration” at the start of the election campaign. Rather, she thinks she is saving it. She tries to persuade socialist campaigners to remain in the party. Three hundred left in one day! On that, I was the dismissive one- three hundred out of half a million.

Then she views her tiny, hating minority as brave lone campaigners. She was at the LGB All Liars launch! There were [self-hating] trans women there! There are lots of lesbian organisations! They are tiny, and it’s always the same dreary obsessives, but she does not see that.

I sat in silence unable to think of anything useful to say. She thinks her lot are the oppressed ones, unable to see how the hard Right are using them. For example, when I wrote to my MP the minister wrote back using the term “single-sex services”, trans excluder jargon claiming there is a rigid distinction between gender and sex and that it matters, rather than “women’s services”. Can there be a meeting of minds? Almost certainly not. That hour on zoom from 8.30, followed by my messing about until midnight, probably contributed to my misery the following day.

I am reading “Always Coming Home” by Ursula LeGuin, in which a woman from an egalitarian society, where wealth is counted in what they give away, goes to a militaristic, theocratic, hierarchical society where wealth is what they take from others and retain. Women are not allowed outside, and are veiled in the presence of men. She writes of the “general of the women”,

If we could have worked and talked together and come to know each other I think it would have been better, for she was not a spiteful person. But that was prevented by our misunderstanding, fixed and made incurable by her jealousy of her power, and my shame.

The least privileged cling to their few privileges, against each other. So much of that book is relevant:

But since the Dayao did not talk decisions over in public council, as people usually do, there was no way for disagreements to come together into agreement. So ideas became opinions, and these made factions, which diverged and became fixed opponents.

I don’t know that talking is possible. I know that our marginalisation is the same. I know that she cannot gain rights by taking away mine. My concept of how we might come together, fighting for the rights of both, involves her welcoming trans women in. Hers involves me campaigning behind that self-hater. I am trapped in the zero-sum game. Could we work for the good of the Labour party?

Getting up and being productive

What would laying down the burden look like? Possibilities. Authentic forgiveness, authentic detachment, authentic separation, just accepting what is and cannot be changed.

I noticed that I did not want to get up, and I did not admit it to myself. So I would think, I need to get up and go to the supermarket, and then I would stay lying where I was, possibly clicking through different articles on the Guardian. Sometimes, by midday, I would think, oh, it seems I am not getting up today. I was not just reading, I was avoiding getting up. So I noticed what was happening, and noticed when it was happening, and might proclaim, joyfully- “I don’t want to get up!” And then get up, because I needed to. Realising I did not want to get up, I saw the blockage, so could surmount it.

-Would you allow yourself not to get up?

Well, no. That’s why my broken motivation has to hide and fool my conscious mind to get what it wants. I could forgive myself for not wanting to get up if I got up. And it’s balancing wants, the immediate discomfort against the need. The beauty of the weather made getting up easier, but it was still difficult. And lying in bed, the day has not started, the responsibilities can be put off.

I was pleased, after, and then I wrote a blog post I like. It said what I wanted it to say, clearly, as lightly as it could, and the argument held water.

-So a productive day.

I could not accept that word “productive”. Nothing I do is productive. I am hard on myself. “I do things which I want to do,” I said. I think people are so self-effacing, so quiet, so careful of the rules outside because we are all angry and fear blowups are possible.

At least I know what I want. I want to not go out, I want to just not face the day. I want to blog, and read. And, as well, I want to get groceries, and when I am out I can notice the beauty of the day, and of the valley, and the trees, and the vegetation. I watched all of The Nest on TV, and the mother, played by Shirley Henderson, particularly grabbed my attention. Spoilers whited out. She is a monster who does not realise it, who thinks she is a victim, so she ruins others’ lives. Seeing herself as hard done by frees her to do monstrous things which to her are just reasonable. She is not evil, just unperceptive and self-righteous.

There is another character who only trusts one man, and when he is arrested her world implodes.

I hesitate to compare my mother to this woman. I assess it intellectually, there are these similarities, these differences. I feel nervous. I feel I should not. I feel the need to state all my mother’s good qualities, in preparation. Then I change the subject: I glance up, and there is a red kite. It is beautiful! Then I compare them. The similarity is both do damage they do not see. However having made the comparison out loud, I now feel able to make it more easily.

If I cannot always get up even though I need to buy food, I don’t see how I could do a job which was just working to survive. It feels impossible.

These followers of Bosch- they are not doing anything he did not do, and from Wikimedia I see they spent a lot of time on the Hell bits. Well, the wars in Europe were hellish at that time. Here is another, but it will be my last:

Anger and sadness, depression and motivation

-Part of you is dreadfully sad. You have this deep well of sadness in you. When you are motivated to do something that succeeds, you notice and hold that achievement. I am wondering what happens when you don’t, whether you judge yourself or care for yourself and feel the disappointment.

Of course I would like only success, and failure, sooner or later, makes me withdraw. “We tried that once and it didn’t work”- I have noticed people not trying something a second time when trying again seemed worthwhile to me, and I notice that I stop trying too. I could not bear yet another failure, so I stopped. Trying was too painful, but I needed to be screaming before I acknowledged the pain, and by then I could not try again.

-We can see the positives, achievement and celebration and success and doing is very much our culture, but not so good about seeing the other side of things, or fearing trying again, failing again. Fail better, said Beckett’s Krapp, showing the difficulty of it. I dwelt on this until we met again two weeks later. What stops me feeling the sadness, or the pain, is my anger. My anger is directed inwards, at me. What do I have to be sad about? I demand, disdainfully, contemptuously. It is like my other internal conflicts- the anger pushes down, the sadness pushes against it, I exhaust myself but do not move.

Richard Rohr wrote Your life is not about you– the ego at the centre of the Universe. It is about God. It is about a willing participation in a larger mystery. At this time, we do this by not rejecting or running from what is happening but by accepting our current situation and asking God to be with us in it. I thought, The spiritual lesson is learning the opposite of what you believed- I was worthless, not the centre of the Universe at all. Learning the different aspects of truth- my value as a unique being, my ordinariness as one among billions- I need a different corrective to the one Rohr administers.

What does the anger say? I sympathise more with the anger (as it is righteous, with something soft and weak). I am proud of it, so I bring it into consciousness and accept it. It seems appropriate. My anger tries to be stoic, accepting trouble and keeping on (except that it fails at that). I admire stoicism: Marcus Aurelius was seeking the Good Life, was the moral philosopher whether talking of getting out of bed or facing death. And my anger denies the sadness- go away and stop bothering me. It blocks the sadness from consciousness. Stop whining! it commands, and the whining becomes quieter though no less effective as a block to action.

The anger is inside me now, the anger is me, though it may be learned from the culture or the family, from voices outside. I don’t remember it, particularly, as an outside voice, condemning me- perhaps I learned it from others’ example.

Then I find the sadness, and I want to process it. I have the idea that if I could simply feel the sadness it would have told me all it needed to tell me, I would have learned from it all I needed to learn- not Don’t do that! but Take care doing that. And I have the idea that I am simply coaxing the sad part of me- I will listen to it for a time then say, that’s enough time now, come on- wheedling- coaxing- now take action. At which the sadness or the sad part digs its heels in again. It’s too painful right now. Rest a while more.

The anger is me. The sadness is me. Consciously I am more in the anger because it feels right, and it feels effective. Kicking my own backside was my way of motivation. Get on with it. It did actually work, for a while, it got me out of the house, going to work, achieving some things. Now if it works, if I get out of bed because I kick myself, I am wearied by it, it is heavy, an effort, it gives no joy. Anger and sadness are in stalemate.

-Where is your agency? she asks. Where’s the rest of you? I see your appreciation of culture and awe and beauty and there is something in you which wants to go and appreciate these things.

Well, that was my social training. My Dad showed me that culture required effort. We listened to Bartok string quartets expecting not to enjoy them- for them to be so alien, so complex, that my first feeling would be distressed boredom. Then with concentration and repeated listening the drama of the work, its progression and feeling, would reveal itself. I had this experience aged about 14 with The Silmarillion. I struggled through it, and found it weird, and the third time I read it I enjoyed it. Now I have The Mirror and the Light. It has huge sales, and I imagine more people will buy it than read it because they do not appreciate the effort it requires; but it will reward that effort. I am re-reading Bring Up the Bodies, knowing the characters better than I did. Its sequel is a 900 page novel which will be worth savouring.

In the same way I walked up the stairs in the National Gallery with a stool, because standing still too long is uncomfortable for me, turned right into the first gallery, turned left to the first painting and sat in front of it. That Veronese is fabulously beautiful. I retain it in my mind, and think of the legend of St Helena. And it is an effort. I need to concentrate, and I need to go and seek it out.

The anger is conscious, the sadness comes to consciousness. Partly it is an intellectual exercise, working out what might be there, partly it is trust in you as the expert who sees sadness in me, and partly it is inklings of feeling, peeking out from the woods, or surfacing briefly from the depths.

The anger is directed inwards, against myself, because I am weak and without status. If my anger is expressed outwards I will be squished. I got this from my family, and perhaps from their experience as human beings in the pecking order. I am at the bottom of the pecking order. Well, when I am sucking up to this admin worker, Oh, you lost a stone! How strong willed you are, how determined! What an achievement! Rather than about time, you’ll ruin your knees otherwise you fat slattern.

I have value only for what I can achieve, rather than in myself. So I need the opposite of Rohr’s lesson. I don’t blame my parents, it’s sins of the fathers, just the situation being passed on, like a mother rabbit bending to lick her kits, and the rabbit parasites march down her nose and onto them. It’s just what happens.

-Where is your agency? she asks again.

I have desire without action. I passionately want to be seen. And I want not to be seen, to hide away at home. My friend said it was as if I wanted to blend into the background in the most eyecatching way possible, which he might have wanted for himself. One of the best ways of hiding in plain sight is the steady achievement of the quiet efficient worker, who does what is expected.

-When do you feel these things rather than intellectualise about them?

When you talked about my sadness I felt irritation. Feeling the sadness- it’s too much to bear in consciousness, and I need to intellectually accept that, it’s part of the process of unearthing it.


-That does not feel real. It feels like an intellectual exercise.

Well, yes. I am acting. I can only say that within several sets of quotation marks, and you can hear the quotation marks in my voice- but I am acting myself. That is what I want to say to you, perfectly sincerely, and I can only say it as an act.

-What stops you being as opposed to acting?

Lack of practice. Uselessness and inadequacy. A deep lack of trust, in myself and in the world. Those are the things that come to mind immediately.

-Is the better self totally intellectual?

No. But the feeling self, anger and sadness, is tied in such knots I can barely perceive it. Or there are feelings flooding through me, and I cannot speak them. I might type or write them.

-Does this practice, of seeking art, music and literature out, and working on them, apply to anything else?

It applies to ideas. I read the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Implicit Bias in order to understand implicit bias better. I found it a struggle. I want to understand. I’d like to walk down the street buying stuff, but I can’t see how to get to there from here. I want to meet people and get to know them, and I do, sometimes, talking to people with different experiences to see through their eyes. People learn what is fun by convention, then do that for fun because they don’t know any better, but by exploration we might find something rewarding.

An anti-trans campaigner

Trans people want people like me dead. That much is clear. TERF die in a fire, right?

I am taken aback by the level of fear. “Not all of us, I hope,” I said. We met on facebook, I asked if we could pm for a bit. She is masculine in presentation, and was gang raped by people calling her a man. She has been depressed. Trans activists bombed her group. Yet she admits the attacks on trans people make it more difficult for her to dress in a more masculine way.

(I quote her claims without comment on whether I believe them or not.)

I try to be winsome. “To me, we should be allies. Indeed gender is a social construct. I believe that any quality or virtue is equally bad in men and in women.”

She says terfs are hurt by campaigns to stop them meeting. It makes them suicidal. Coming together with people who think the same way is a refuge: “It’s like water or air”.

She is so sensitive to threat that when I showed her the advert from LGB All Liars she thought it was attacking terfs. Then she made her claim: that men dress as women specifically to get into women’s spaces to attack women. She has been attacked by such a man, wearing a dress. “To me, that’s a central experience,” she said. It happens in college and in schools. “In college, dressing up as women to raid the sorority gatherings is also a long held tradition.”

People’s statements are the only evidence I have. She tells me men in women’s clothes rape and murder women, and also murder trans people when they find out we are trans. She doesn’t believe me when I deny it happens here: “It would be interesting to talk to some UK women who aren’t trans and ask them”. So I asked on facebook, including some American-born women, who said it is a myth. I did not deny her account, though.

Then she went on to socialisation. “People who are born with vaginas in this culture, regardless of what we call ourselves, are put into a second class at birth. Everything about how we are raised is to train us into submission. So when I try to live in the reality that I am of equal value to men, that gets put down every time.”

“What support would you want from me?” I asked.

Believe us when we say we know what is not safe for us. Understand male socialisation makes you see women as less. Join us in creating a world safe for everyone. Stop trans allies from attacking us. “Behind all that anger is a lot of fear.  We’ve all been threatened over and over again by people who claim to be protecting trans folks. We’ve lost our jobs. We’ve lost our friends. In some cases, we’ve been beaten or raped.” Stop men harassing us.

I said she did not know how I had been raised, and she said “That really is the problem. You can’t see the privilege.” Then she said I had accused her of lying about the non-trans men in women’s clothes.

I sympathise with the anger and fear, and the female anti-trans campaigners who feel that way have become fixated on one solution: the exclusion of trans women. It won’t do them any good, it won’t reduce the violence they suffer, but that’s what they campaign for. Any resistance to their campaigning makes them more determined.

On the doorstep

I heard many criticisms of Mr Corbyn. He was derisively called the “Magic Grandpa,” making ridiculous promises which enticed the youth but could never be kept. One, older than he, said he was too old. He was called antisemitic, unpatriotic, extreme left.

One Union man wanted to get Brexit sorted, and only the Tories could. I tried to argue with Brexiters: Johnson, and the little local climate-denier, had voted against Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement. Brexit had not been done because the Tories are incompetent, and hated each other as much as they hated their non-millionaire voters, so fought amongst themselves and could not co-operate with other parties. No, they said, it was Parliament what blocked it.

I stayed and argued longer than I should. One woman told me that she worked for the NHS, but she still would vote Tory. I told people that Labour reduced the debt better than the Tories, and increased economic growth, and a man said the world financial crash had affected Britain so badly because Gordon Brown had reduced banking regulation. It is Labour’s fault when they are too right wing, and Labour’s fault when they are too left wing. After one, the man running the board told me to go to another house, and I said I had to take a moment, to let go of my feelings about the last one before I could approach yet another door and say, with a broad smile, “I’m with Beth Miller, your Labour candidate. We hope you will vote Labour in the election”.

One woman told me that’s private, one woman told me we should not be canvassing on a Sunday, which led me to wonder if she would read a novel or only her Bible on Sunday. Another woman started shouting at us that we should not be canvassing after dark, the old people would not open their doors, so when could we canvass and meet people who had office hours jobs?

I spoke to LibDem Remainers who would vote tactically for Labour, and enthusiastic Labour voters. A man told me he was comfortably off so would vote the way his daughter requested. A woman told me she would vote as her husband did, which did not please my feminist co-canvasser. Women told me they wanted strong women MPs, and I referred to Diane Abbott, Angela Rayner, Jess Phillips… Barbara Castle… Beth Miller.

I wanted name recognition. Name her. Make the name stick in people’s memories.

I walked around sticking leaflets through doors until my ankle went and I was dragging my right foot. I leafleted in the rain and the dark so that I could not see the step on someone’s path, and stumbled, grazing my knuckles. I did more canvassing, wearing an ankle support.

One man drove all over the constituency putting up signs in gardens, and drove me to Corby to campaign. We chatted in the car, of economic and other arguments. I have another facebook friend. I hope to see him again if we campaign again.

And today we have a Tory MP with an increased majority and a mad Tory government of monsters, which deselected its least hard-right MPs including several ex-cabinet ministers. It is a Tory party without talent led by a lying sociopath who went into politics out of vanity rather than conviction and likes to incite hatred against “bumboys”, “letterboxes” and “piccaninnies with watermelon smiles”.

I went to the library to return The Testaments, and got chatting to the volunteer there. No, now she is only reading for her sermons, she is a Baptist preacher. She takes great care over the wording of her sermons. She preaches for ten minutes, but makes each word count. I would talk of sermons and theology, of incarnation and its meaning, of “cast down the mighty from their thrones, and lift up the lowly”. I am a Quaker, I said. Oh, really? Do you know –? Yes. She is a lovely person. Yes, she is. She is Ruth’s good friend. I say my name was popular twenty years ago, and she says Ruth is never a popular name, it always goes on. I had wanted to talk of sermons, but saying I am a Quaker made the conversation more shallow rather than deeper. Then she answered the phone and went all pastoral, listening to someone’s concerns.

I brought the bin back in. As I passed his back door my neighbour was smoking, and I said hello. The gate jammed against the path. It will stay open, I thought, even though it is so windy, long enough to get the bin. It slammed shut. I went to climb over it, but my neighbour came and opened it. I was grateful. I had not thought to ask him.

hard and soft transphobia

Some people are obsessively transphobic, eternally thinking, writing and preaching about how dangerous trans people and “trans ideology” are to women, children and society. And some people are a bit transphobic, enough to keep me wary of everyone.

How many would follow “of course you are a woman” or “I accept you as a trans woman” or “I’m not transphobic” with But?

-but you look a bit weird
-but I understand why some people don’t think you’re a woman
-but you might frighten someone in a changing room.

Generally they are accepting, or perhaps tolerant. It’s not because she’s trans! I use the pronouns she wants and everything! But her voice/wig/personality just gets to me. Their desire to seem so, to themselves and to others, gets in the way of their being accepting. They stop being accepting when something goes wrong.

Someone might say, “well, I never liked her” and be highly resistant to the idea that me being trans had anything to do with that.

Being trans is rarely the sole problem, in any situation I find myself in, and it always makes things slightly more difficult.

This article in Ha’aretz discusses research on a similar phenomenon in antisemitism. 2.4% of people are virulent antisemites, and 30% hold one or more antisemitic opinions. So the endless arguing, raising all sorts of issues, might make some such opinions acceptable. I’m not transphobic, but- trans women should not be in women’s prisons/refuges/sports events. Are underlying mental health issues properly treated? (No, the psychiatrists don’t have the time). Will they regret mastectomy in a few years’ time?

Prejudice links to status, and I have noticed myself patronising less privileged people, to keep them in their place. I am in a state of conscious incompetence, noticing when I enforce society’s standards rather than what I would like to be my own. I want to treasure real value but still judge by worldly standards. So I would say I am not racist, then notice myself reinforcing colourist hierarchies.

-we weren’t bad people, we just did bad things.
-is there any difference?

There is. I seek to change. How much difference there is depends on how successful I am. I will cure myself of these habits.

I am also low status because I am unemployed. People notice my clothes, and judge me for them. I was patronised in the library, and looking back I am mortified to see it was late September, it bothers me so much still. So I went back after The Testaments was published, they have several copies, and I ordered it.

When the email came to say I could pick it up, I did not for a week because I could not summon the motivation. I went down on Monday, and the same woman said the book was not there, and she would bring in her own copy so I could get it on Wednesday. I appreciate the generosity. I was disappointed she was not there on Wednesday. I wanted to indicate my educated status. I have been thinking up clever things to say about the book, so that when I take it back I can show how sophisticated I am. How pointless! It is not that I want this person to like or admire me, but that I want her to see my positive status signifier, the ability to appreciate literature, rather than my negative ones, old clothes and being trans.

At the CAB I advised a man who irritated me by coming with an abstruse question on pension contributions and entitlement and his constant refrain, “Are you wi’ me? Are you wi’ me?” He had done his research. Of course I was with him, I thought, as usual I was way ahead. I looked it up and may have got it wrong.

Status indicators stop us seeing people. Low status indicators may produce irritation we could never name, so assign to other causes. If someone with Cotard’s syndrome comes up with an explanation for why they can talk to you consistent with their delusion of being dead, you know they are fabulising. It is harder to spot when they fabulise to make consistent explanations with their belief they are not transphobic.

Everyone is transphobic. Society makes us so. I have internalised transphobia. It is constant hard work to rid ourselves of prejudice. Until being trans is as normal as being Black should be, everyone will be a little bit transphobic.

Seeing both sides

“I’m shocked there is a process” for Quaker excommunication, disownment, whatever, she said.

“There has to be,” I said. That surprised her, and she stared at me for a few seconds.

“To see from so many aspects,” she said.

“It is a huge gift,” I said. I sympathise. I see where they are coming from. I simply want a solution to include me in the decision-making.

“They may be too frightened to take you back.

“How do you feel about it?”

My comfort zone has restricted to a point. I am a beaten cur cowering in a corner. I am frightened to go out. I do not want to see anyone.

Take that as a compliment. I trusted your unconditional positive regard so trusted enough to speak to you. I don’t want to see anyone else. I have phoned a couple of people.

I had the thought this morning, I passionately desire you not to disown, disfellowship, what’s the dry phrase- termination of membership. I want to remain a Quaker. I thought there was a possible explanation of that which would be unhealthy. I could not bear the judgment that I was so unbearable, so I needed them to affirm my value because I could not affirm it myself. I am pretty sure that is not my motive.

Oh wow. Can I say that? Is it true? I can!

I have worked out for myself I am acceptable.

After the low point of despising myself that I came to, reaching this point is pretty impressive.

I want to be in a Quaker meeting because I want the experience of worship. This is therapeutic, but that is a by product: I am seeking the Inner Light, that is, doing what I am supposed to be doing, though it is more difficult for me than some Quaker writings might seem to imply. The inner light is worth seeking.

Quakers give me my opportunity to be a contributing intellectual: for years the only times people have paid for my writing (though not paid me) has been in Quaker publications, and most of my audiences have been Quaker.

Having been disowned, or TM’d under 11.30c, I could still attend worship, but would feel compunction or constraint. Now I do it as of right, with equals, then I would feel tolerated (if that) and separate. The loss might stop me attending at all.

It is the Religious Society of Friends, and I want that friendship. I want to talk with my intellectual and spiritual equals and to stimulate and be stimulated. I know people value what I say, and even if one felt “collared inescapably” over coffee, others enjoy my company, even seeking me out. You can’t get on with everyone.

The beaten cur explores tentatively, glances round furtively. What might be possible?

“I hope you write,” she said. Of course. It is pouring out of me. It is my way of exploring. “I’m in awe of your writing ability,” said someone. Another told me I should write a book, though I still don’t see that as possible or worthwhile. What I write now, exploring from different positions, may not be what I come to eventually.

seeing and being seen

If you saw someone you could not fail to love them. You would see aspects and feel something like pity but more like fellow-feeling and other aspects and feel awe and recognise them in yourself.

I want to be seen. I am a human being. Human beings are beautiful.

If you do not want to love anyone you can restrict what you see. No, not looking at that bit. So we agree to look at a tiny bit of the other and talk of nothing at all.

-How’s the campaigning going?

Or it’s not even a part of me, it’s like what I thought was a shiny badge but it’s not even a sharp piece of gravel from a road builder’s yard, not even as beautiful as that, as it’s not real.

-Well enough. It’s great when a Tory says they don’t trust the Tories any more.

I can’t do that for long. I recall: I used to read the Telegraph, and then one day there was an article by AN Wilson

(Noted aesthete, fogey, and biographer of CS Lewis)

and I thought he’s having a laugh. It was so right wing I did not think anyone could believe it. The following week, it was the Sunday Telegraph, there were several letters saying “how wonderful to read The Truth from AN Wilson!” “Wilson tells it as it is!” And I didn’t want to read the Telegraph any more.

That was a small part of me.

-Shall we arrange another of these meetings?

I don’t say anything. I wait to hear what anyone has to say. So someone says they have run their course and there is no need. I feel cut off, and afterwards text someone who says if I had requested the meetings continue that would have happened, and if I request it now he will pass that on.

If I beg, they may in their mercy cast me a scrap.

Are Quakers transphobic? Not in a way they would realise it, but their aversion is worse for being unconscious. The irritation is greater, the fellow-feeling less.

If you want to hate me, or make others hate me, describe me. Turn me into a construct of words. Make me an abstraction, either as an individual or as part of my group. Of course not all trans women are criminals but enough of them are that it is reasonable for women to be frightened of them. Women should not be frightened so trans women should be excluded. See? It’s simple, it’s rational, it’s loving.

One of the purposes of natural justice is to humanise the accused. Audi alteram partem, hear both sides, is commanded because if youdon’t your sympathies naturally attach to the person you see. The person you don’t see is not a full person.

Hear both sides before making a decision. Otherwise your decision is prejudiced. Hearing after making a decision, you are biased against changing your mind. So you should put off making your mind up and always be open to changing it.

I thought of going there. I would hold them in love. They are loveable (see above) and my capacity for fellow-feeling and compassion is huge. However, when I find myself unable to communicate I regress to the distress of a pre-toddling baby. I could find myself in such a state.

I may, still. I wish to humanise myself in their eyes. However, if they are too far gone, they will not see me. They will see a problem not a person, even if I am there.

H told me when she was a child her nose was considered ugly, and she was mocked for it. I had never thought of it. She explained why. That is thought ugly? Since then I have noticed noses. Before, I considered eyes, mainly. Certain faces I thought beautiful or full of character I see through other eyes. That nose would be called ugly, so the face is, so the person is. It is a loss. My friend is not ugly.

What I can do

I’m not sure I would call it a personal crisis-

Last week I was effective. I was out protesting, talking, persuading, encouraging, writing, photographing for eight hours a day. I valued myself and people valued me- that vicar on Friday talked of me dancing on Tuesday. I think she saw I needed valued, and she valued me.

The week before I was not effective. I was supposed to go in to the office twice and both times failed to do so, and the thing is that I did not realise I would not until I did not. There’s the moment when I should get up, having had breakfast, and shower and dress and I just carried on reading the Guardian on my phone. Well, my phone is my main source of dopamine. And this week, on Tuesday I just stayed in bed.

I don’t have the energy or motivation to get up but until I should but don’t I don’t know it. I imagine I will.

I don’t know what I feel. I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what I will do, and when I think I want to do something I don’t know if I will. I would not call it a personal crisis because it doesn’t feel that bad to me; it’s only when I see what I do that I think maybe I should be worried.

And yet I was effective last week. It’s odd. I wanted to do all that stuff.

Consciousness is overrated. Subconscious (superconscious?) me makes decisions, conscious me watches. Possibly there are different voices in subconscious me that pull different ways, so one wants to go to the office, and possibly it only fibs to conscious me that it wants to because temporarily that makes conscious me feel safe. Possibly the bit getting its way, and not going to the office, is the Real Me following my heart, and possibly it’s childish-in-a-bad-way me, following immediate pain-avoidance at the cost of long term goals.

I have the experience of speaking with whole me integrity, which indicates that at other times I am torn, or in two minds.

The good thing I have done today, rather than phone-touching, is half an hour’s meditation, holding XR Quakers in the light at the time they were worshipping. I think it “good” because it was focused beyond myself.

It seems to me that in the lower ranks of that office people are constantly irked, and the strict hierarchy is shown by who gets to moan and who has to listen. C said to me she did not expect me in, the day after I did not get the job, and I said, well, it was a matter of pride- and self-interest, getting me into a routine whatever my motivation. It was, that day, and that worked. Then after S complained to me about M moaning to her and how M should think of that quote, you know, the something to accept what you can’t change, I walked back down the corridor fighting the tears (usually a losing battle for me) deciding I would demand a listening ear and it would be whole life all problems, the expression of pain I would erupt into, starting I used to be a solicitor! Well, I fought down the tears and found myself hearing an account of someone’s Saga holiday in Egypt- not telling us of tombs and temples, but of the transport getting there. The day trip to the Pyramids (Great Pyramid of Khufu, I thought to myself, not all pyramids are at Cairo) involved internal flights.

“Now you’ll know what to do, when they weigh your heart against a feather,” I said, but she did not rise to that one. There may be many things messing up my relationships there, but I doubt being trans helps- even if only in the sense that I had male privilege and have not got it now.

In a world which is almost all black, going to that office offers the faintest chance of the darkest grey for me. It’s not what I would have wanted. It may be all there is.

I feared I could not do the job anyway.

I have a cold, and together with the depression that takes away my motivation.

Mostly today I have played on my phone and watched telly. The Broo is after me again. I could have bought food or done washing. I liked the busker’s puppets, moving their mouths as if singing harmonies.