The Spectator

Is The Spectator magazine feminist? You might conclude not, from their article on the Irish abortion referendum, quoting people saying things like “Is abortion the killing of a human being?” This they call “plain speaking”. “We are ahead of history… to be one day- if we hold our nerve and damp down the crazy false progressivism that assaults us- vindicated by history and medical science. Because one day- for certain- the world will arrive at a consensual consciousness about unborn boys and girls: that they are as human as 6’3″ rugby players.”

Stirring stuff. Unfortunately, on the issue of trans rights alone, James Kirkup in the Spectator is pretending to be feminist, and managing to fool some feminists. The mask slips sometimes, as he talks of “the loony lefty SJW Labour Party” (which is mostly centrist) but his flattery and playing up their martyrdom complex is enough to get them sharing his articles: “women who are struggling to make their voices heard…[are] at risk of abuse or accusations of transphobic bigotry. Or even being assaulted.” “The fear that persuades some people that they can’t say what they think about something, or even ask questions about it.” My emphasis- he has to be repetitive, churning out so much drivel.

He’s not very bright, Kirkup. He was writing about David Lewis, who was suspended from the Labour Party so that he would be unable to stand for the post of Women’s Officer, which is open only to women. He quoted the words which show that Lewis is not trans, from his own mouth. “My womanness is expressed by my saying ‘I self identify as a woman’ now and again on Wednesdays. I make no changes in my behaviour or my appearance… I enjoy the full womanness of my beard.” That would make him non-binary, and so ineligible for the post of women’s officer. But even if Lewis never admitted to being a man, what he says there is unbelievable. It is internally contradictory, one of the grounds for disbelieving a person. “My priority is to inform the CLP… about what happens when you say that someone’s gender depends only on what they say and nothing else.” That’s ironic. He is clearly masculine, from “only what he says and nothing else”.

He wants to argue that the policy is unworkable. It is easily summarised: trans women are women. Lewis is not a trans woman, he is not even claiming to be a trans woman, a claim which would be clearly false from the things he is quoted as saying. The policy says, The Labour Party’s All Women Shortlists are open to all women, including self-identifying trans women. Similarly, women’s officers and minimum quotas for women in the Labour Party are open to all women, including self-identifying trans women.

You are a trans woman before you transition. A trans woman who is unwilling to express herself feminine, in women’s clothes and hairstyle, is not going to have the confidence to stand as a women’s officer or even a delegate, and unlikely to be elected if she does, so there is no problem. And people standing for those roles with the intention of bringing the Labour Party and its policies into disrepute, like David Lewis, will be easily marked by what they say.

Kirkup is a transphobe. Consider his descriptions of trans women: an “angry mob” of “violent misogynists” “silencing lesbians”, and that’s just his headlines. He seeks to foment fear of us. “Would the safety of women’s spaces be compromised if anyone could gain the legal right to enter them simply by saying the words ‘I am a woman’?” No-one is proposing that but Kirkup himself, going beyond wilful misunderstanding to lies, intended to arouse anger.

Kirkup’s aim is to foment discord within the Labour Party. That’s what the Spectator does: encourage the extreme right by printing Breitbart writers, put ludicrous arguments for hard right positions- abortion is the killing of a human being, forsooth- and try to set lefties against each other. Normally it fails in the last aim, because people on the Left can see through it. Melanie Phillips wrote in the magazine, rather than the blog- you have to register to see this quote- “Gender is not a social construct but a biological fact. Gender derives from a complex relationship between biological sex and behaviour. And nature and nurture are not easily separable.” That’s their position on gender- it is immutable. “From divorce and lone parenthood to gay marriage what was once regarded as a source of disadvantage or category error has been transformed into a human right.”

Gender critical feminists are on the Left. So are trans women, mostly, if we are at all involved in activism. The Left has to sort this out. The authoritarian Right is not our friend.

For some sanity on abortion, today of all days, here’s the Irish Times.

Different experiences

Trans-excluders argue that trans women do not have women’s experiences, so must be excluded from women’s spaces, and the experiences we cannot share are having a female reproductive system, and being socialised as women, which they experience as oppressive.

I don’t have that experience of menstruation, but nor do many women with disorders of sexual development, who would be accepted as women by the trans excluders. To be clear, “But you accept intersex women as women” is a valid argument against “You are not women, because you do not have a woman’s reproductive system”. It is a lifelong series of experiences, usually following the same path, which moulds a person’s life, but it does not mean that I cannot be accepted as a woman, and I have experienced variations in hormone levels which I have found difficult.

I don’t have the experience of men coming on to me and not taking no for an answer from the age of 13, but here women’s experiences are variable. Some girls are seen as unattractive. People are seen as more or less sexual. I have experiences of anxiety or anguish around relationships, and I have had men coming on to me or feeling me up. It can’t be said that we do not have women’s experiences of relationships, as women’s experiences are varied, and we share them with many.

Being socialised as a woman- well, women’s experiences are varied there, too. If you want to climb trees as a child, does your family encourage you or not? Some families are keen that their daughters not feel restricted in what they can do. As with everything, some families are keen to fit in, and some to nurture and celebrate the gifts of each child. That is what is most important for me: the parallel trans experience of not being allowed to be yourself, which happens to those of us least fitting our birth gender, may be mitigated or reinforced by family.

The women who would most keenly exclude us seem to have had these experiences together at a peculiar intensity- shame inculcated at bodies and especially menstruation; sexual abuse and harassment from early teenage; and gendered expectations not fitting their true selves and felt as particularly oppressive. That can seem like one Woman’s experience which “transwomen” can never experience. Sexual harassment can be appalling- I worked briefly in a hotel where the cook often repeated a vile phrase about sex with young girls. If he acted on it! I don’t know how many women have such an intense experience, and how many react to it as trans excluders seem to.

Generally, though, the difference between women who welcome us and those who would exclude us from women’s spaces is openness to us, and not particular experiences. Can you feel sympathy with this person, or do you experience them as intruding where they should not be? If we might be harmful, what level of harm and what level of likelihood of that harm is believable, or necessary before we must be excluded? Some would take a logical line- woman is biology, not gender identity, so we are not women, but back that up with heightened statements of the risks we pose. Yet if you are open to including us, our experiences are not sufficiently different from other women’s to make you stop.

The edge of transphobia

Can someone speculate about trans women having male privilege, or being excluded from some women’s spaces, without being transphobic? As not all criticism of the Israeli government is antisemitic, but some is, some such speculation may come from a deeply felt position of support for trans folk, or honest curiosity; and then be used by transphobes to exclude us.

I don’t think Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is transphobic. Back in March 2017, before the self-ID confected debate and hate-explosion, she was interviewed on Channel 4 news:

Interviewer: if you’re a trans woman who grew up identifying as a man who grew up enjoying the privileges of being a man does that take away from becoming a woman are you any less of a real woman?

Adiche: So when people talk about are trans women women, my feeling is that trans women are trans women. I think if you’ve lived in the world as a man, with the privileges the world accords to men, and then changed gender, it’s difficult for me to accept that we can equate your experience with the experience of a woman who has lived from the beginning in the world as a woman and who has not been accorded those privileges that men are. I don’t think it’s a good thing to conflate everything into one. I don’t think it’s a good thing to talk about women’s issues being exactly the same as the issues of trans women. Gender is not biology. Gender is sociology.

She says we have male privilege, though she was prompted to say so by the interviewer. Perhaps she did not know a great deal about the issues, though that is no excuse if you decide to speak out. Lots of people accused her of transphobia- we had that luxury then- and she clarified her comments on facebook:

Gender is a problem not because of how we look or how we identify or how we feel but because of how the world treats us.

Girls are socialized in ways that are harmful to their sense of self – to reduce themselves, to cater to the egos of men, to think of their bodies as repositories of shame. As adult women, many struggle to overcome, to unlearn, much of that social conditioning.

A trans woman is a person born male and a person who, before transitioning, was treated as male by the world. Which means that they experienced the privileges that the world accords men. This does not dismiss the pain of gender confusion or the difficult complexities of how they felt living in bodies not their own.

This is not to say that trans women did not undergo difficulties as boys. But they did not undergo those particular difficulties specific to being born female, and this matters because those experiences shape how adult women born female interact with the world.

And because to be human is to be a complex amalgam of your experiences, it is disingenuous to say that their being born male has no effect on their experience of gender as trans women.

Transphobic? It may help that I consider that there are differences; that I did identify as an inadequate male, before I revolted and knew I am not a man– which is different from those trans women who knew they were girls in childhood. Bullying for being effeminate is different from being socialised as a girl, and the violence cis women and trans women face now is subtly different. Even the one who knew she was a girl was socialised to be a Real Man, not to be a properly feminine woman, to reduce herself, etc. And I see that socialisation, which not all trans women might acknowledge.

Last month, Adichie gave a lecture in Manhattan, spoke at the Women of the World festival in London, and was interviewed in the Guardian. “For her, gender is a social construction”, we are told. Well, for me, too, though not for all trans women. And the interviewer, Lisa Allardice, felt the need to ask her about something she said about trans women, more than a year ago. That’s shitstirring, and more likely to be transphobic than Adichie’s comments. Adichie is an intersectional feminist, particularly interested in the different experiences of different groups- black and white women, cis and trans women. So she focuses on differences. Why raise the matter now? So that controversy might be stirred again, transphobes encouraged to talk of the different experiences of cis and trans women, and trans women portrayed as unreasonable. Some people talking about those differences really are transphobic.

Allardice writes that Adiche “was accused of killing trans women with her words” and that there were calls to burn her books. Oh, those vile unreasonable trans women! Allardice is clutching her pearls, while delighting in publicising our worst actions. But at least she quotes Adiche’s refutation of that. Perhaps she did not understand it: a white woman had said feminism is not all about her, but about black women. Of course feminism is about her. I wish she’d said, “Here is all the shit I get because I am a woman, but I think about all the other women who don’t have the white privilege I have, I can’t imagine what that must be like.” That for me would be perfect. And, of course, feminism is about me, and other trans women, even if feminism includes matters of reproductive rights which will never directly affect me.

You can talk about difference and our different experiences without being transphobic. The issue is, why you want to talk about that? And, not everyone understands the nuances of how our differences affect our feminism, so people have to explain; but the differences should not be a weapon against trans women.


Trans feminism and the Toronto murders

A murderer drove a van down the street in Toronto. The van killed ten people and injured fifteen. Just before, it appears there was a post on the suspect’s facebook page, praising a murderer who had carried out a mass shooting in Isla Vista, saying the Incel rebellion has already begun. We will overthrow all the Chads and the Stacys. It appears he identified as an “involuntary celibate”, whom I wrote of before.

Men on 4Chan and elsewhere identify as incels, unable to find a partner, creating ridiculous misogynist fantasies about why, and praising murderers like that Isla Vista murderer. Emer O’Toole in the Guardian Opinion section gave a feminist response. The Toronto murderer appears to have been motivated by hatred of women, out of a feeling of entitlement to sex. O’Toole reasonably calls this “violent misogyny”. She complains that others use mental health or childhood trauma to explain away such murders, and so it is necessary for feminists to keep feminist analysis central to the conversation.

Well, the Guardian reported that facebook post in its News section. The NYT used a male journalist to explain what an “incel” is. O’Toole argues that we should not name the Isla Vista murderer, because that gives him the fame he craves, but the NYT article uses a bizarre photo of him in a car so that his face is in sunlight and the background in shade, as if he had a halo.  Who are incels? Incels are misogynists who are deeply suspicious and disparaging of women, whom they blame for denying them their right to sexual intercourse… at their most extreme, incels have advocated rape. With O’Toole, I would mark them down for the photograph, but I would give them a pass mark overall. The takeaway from the article is that misogyny is the likely cause for the murder. The NYT also did an article on how the police officer who arrested the suspect de-escalated the situation, where an American police officer may just have shot him. Their main Opinion piece talked of how Toronto is so peaceful, generally, and how the murderer’s motives are not yet determined, but it was published on 24 April.

The Telegraph, though often offensively right-wing, began its article The Toronto van attack suspect praised [Isla Vista murderer] and referenced a misogynistic online community of angry celibate men in a facebook message. Then it speculated on his mental health- “a social or mental disability”. He was a “loner” said someone who knew him. These are the kinds of things such people always say, and are always quoted. He was a murderer. The feminist point is that he is at one end of a spectrum of violent misogyny, egged on by men who might be too weak to be so violent, even though they were chaotic enough to desire to be.

The link to misogyny is clear, here. Should Emer O’Toole be satisfied? No. For her, the murders are the extreme edge of the Patriarchy, different from cat-calling, slut-shaming and everyday sexism in degree but not in kind. So the Telegraph article, with those commonplaces about the murderer being a “loner”, would not get a pass mark: it makes him a freak, rather than one end of a spectrum.

I see the feminist anger, I see the justification for it, I am on side. I started writing wanting to give an answer, but I am left with a question: what do you think the trans feminist’s response should be? Please comment. Possibly he did have mental health problems, but ascribing the murders to that might be seen by gender critical feminists as evidence we were on the side of Patriarchy, rather than against it. In a cis woman, that would be evidence she needed her consciousness raised; in a trans woman it might be another reason to reject us. So, I can hardly answer, I cannot work out an answer separate from how people might see me. Is patriarchy really all-pervasive? Are the women who say, well, he could hardly be entirely sane and balanced, of course mental health and even being a loner is relevant, wrong? If someone thinks patriarchy is all pervasive, do they think me part of it?

Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them, said Margaret Atwood. If not kill, then rape, or strike, or disrespect, or merely see through the distorting lens of patriarchy and act accordingly- always with the threat of escalation even as far as murder if she persists. And my fear of men is different, as I am read as trans- that I will be assaulted or disrespected- or killed- as a weirdo pervert rather than as a sex object.

I feel my position, as a trans feminist contemplating these misogynist murders, is as an ally rather than as one of those affected. As I identify as a woman, it is my fight alongside my sisters’; but not as someone under the same threat. Then I let go of what people will think of me.

Testosterone Rex

From the opening joke about testicles as a key-fob, Testosterone Rex by Cordelia Fine is a lively read. It argues that gender roles arise not from testosterone, or from our evolution on the savannahs of Africa, but from Patriarchy, by close analysis of scientific studies showing that expected gender differences do not manifest in results, and that results found do not justify the large claims made.

There lies the difficulty for me. I am unable to delve into the primary sources. I would not know where to start. Political interests drive the confirmation bias of researchers, on both sides, and patriarchy affects the theorising which makes researchers or funders choose particular projects. Fine quotes Lewis Wolpert, CBE FRS FRSL FMedSci, the author of a number of popular science books: There is no doubt that biology, via evolution and genetics, has made men and women significantly different. Fine disagrees, and has assembled impressive evidence. I am aware of Wolpert, more as an author of popular science books than for his work on intracellular positional information that guides cellular development, but he is an eminent man. Why should I believe Fine over him?

She shows that research has been based on the idea of masculinity and femininity as opposite ends of a spectrum. In 1936, the Attitude Interest Analysis Survey asked 456 questions, each of which had a “masculine” or “feminine” answer. In the 1970s, the Personal Attributes Questionnaire, with two sets of questions to measure stereotypically masculine and feminine traits separately, showed one can have both “masculine” traits of “instrumentality”, like self-confidence, independence and competitiveness, and “feminine” traits of “expressiveness”, being emotional, gentle and caring. Or, neither. But also the masculine and feminine traits don’t necessarily go together. Always the argument that women can have gifts or interests thought masculine is fighting the assumptions of researchers. The concepts of masculinity and femininity get in the way of seeing how men and women actually are.

She shows how children are indoctrinated into gender, by the pink and blue toy aisles, and by peer pressure. I told my great-niece she was strong, as well as beautiful, for standing up and learning to walk. If girls were feminine at her age of ten months, one would expect them to work on talking first, to express themselves, and boys on walking for instrumentality. There is no such clear difference. Yet there is a great backlash against gender neutral toy-marketing, as if that were the indoctrination.

She describes the White Male effect. Are men more willing to take risks? In the US, a survey showed that men are; but not ethnic minority men. Privileged men are more likely to take risks. And it depends what risks are named, for people take risks where they are familiar with the matter. A risk of high taxation might provoke privileged male fear. And the “funnel plot”, a way of excluding publication bias: where studies show greater female risk-taking, they are less likely to be published. In Sweden, men and women were equal risk takers, but again immigrants, subject to discrimination, would take less risks. Of course: they are less safe.

Are men more competitive for mates, or less likely to be faithful? She accepts that men invest less in producing a baby, a few sperm rather than forty weeks’ incubation, but not that this means men want to spread it around, which might not produce children anyway. In evolutionary biology, sexual selection is in an exciting state of turmoil.

Does testosterone make men more likely to take risks? Not necessarily. Higher testosterone levels in men who take risks is correlation, not necessarily causation. The way testosterone fluctuation in the blood affects the brain is unclear, and women have testosterone too.

She ends with a call to arms. We can continue with our polite, undemanding panel discussions about gender equality, our good intentions and gentle tinkering, and patiently wait out the fifty to one hundred or so years it’s regularly predicted to take to achieve parity in the workplace. But… maybe it’s time to be less polite and more disruptive, like the first- and second-wave feminists. They weren’t always popular, it’s true. But look at what they achieved by not asking nicely.

And look at what she promises: valuation of your gifts as a human being, separate from preconceptions about how a man or woman ought to be. We could see ourselves more clearly. Women freed to express their gifts would benefit all.

Hadley Freeman

Currently, anyone who wants to change gender needs to have lived in their chosen gender for two years and been diagnosed with gender dysphoria. If the changes go through, anyone will be able to declare they are a man or woman, regardless of whether they have made any actual changes to their lifestyle or body. This is known as “self-identification” … a lot of women have argued that predatory men could now come into female-only spaces unchallenged.

“A lot of women have argued.” That is like “People are saying”, the phrase Trump uses with his most outrageous lies. Possibly no-one will swallow it, and he will roll back from it. A journalist, even a columnist, ought to know the truth of the matter, which in this case is that self-ID will make no difference at all.

“A lot of women” claim that all trans women are “predatory men”. That does not make it true. Hadley Freeman’s article does not make it clear what she thinks, though men pretending to be trans women and dressing as women to get into women’s spaces are unlikely, as there are so many other easier options for predatory men. And men with beards pretending to “self-identify” enter women’s spaces only in diseased imaginations. Hadley Freeman praised the “feminists” who went to a men’s swimming session claiming to self-identify as men, but their stunt shows that self-id in law will make no difference. What matters is what people do.

So it seems that the “predatory men” Freeman fears are actually trans women, who are often terrified of being confronted. Before I went full time I had to investigate whether I could make a go of transition. That involved going out dressed female and using women’s facilities, before I made definitive changes to my lifestyle or body. I never asked permission of women as a class- I just did it, as other trans women always have. I had the support of women friends, then and now.

A feminist might argue that not asking women, just encroaching and presuming, was typical male behaviour. I don’t see an option. I was never challenged. I now feel that women learning to challenge encroachment is a good thing. Kasia Urbaniak, a former dominatrix interviewed in the Guardian, said women go speechless and self-conscious of how they are coming across, then acquiesce, shut down, minimise themselves and their concerns. Rather they should change the power dynamic by turning the attention back outwards, on the encroaching man. What are you doing here? What right do you think you have to come here? This involves breaking hardened social conventions where the “deck is stacked against her”- Patriarchy, in other words. Urbaniak observes men relaxing and deferring when they find she is the one with authority.

Justine Greening, then the Minister for Women and Equalities, announced a consultation on self-ID on 23 July, to be published “in the autumn”. Theresa May plugged it at the Pink News awards on 18 October. Since then a lot of women have argued that self-ID is the end of feminism and the ultimate triumph of Patriarchy. They seek to enflame hatred and fear against me, and people like me. When people pretend I am a threat, they licence themselves to attack me. I fear the Tory delay actively seeks to inflame tensions.

The refusal to make it clear whether the “predatory men” are men pretending to be trans women, or actual trans women, makes the anger and fear seem slightly more reasonable. It opens the door for hatred which can then be directed at us.

Freeman writes that “women and trans women” will have to work out a solution. Sometimes we will share space, sometimes not. This will be difficult, especially for my lot, if trans women in women’s space are the first lesson women have in confronting ~male~ encroachment. I went to see my friend Marysia, who pointed out a male among the females. She said it was malnourished and underdeveloped, and proposed a cull. It was a deer, she was working on the Balmoral estate, and still the story runs in my mind…

Solidarity with gender non-conforming people

Women’s jeans are nicer than men’s. They are not cut for the shape of my hips, and jeans look fairly alike across the sexes; but I still prefer women’s jeans. It took a leap of empathy when a trans man told me he preferred men’s.


Loos were more of a stretch. The smell is worse in men’s, it’s more likely there will be puddles on the floor, and even considering the chance of queues women’s are much nicer. Still he prefers men’s. This is a person whose experience is complementary to mine- in some ways the same, in some ways the mirror-opposite. In part I can simply feel with him, because I know exactly what that feels like, and in part I have to step back, think about it, make an adjustment, and see. I do that because understanding positive motivation of others makes them more comprehensible to me, and makes it easier to associate with them.

For a woman who experiences Patriarchy as restricting women in general, and feels it most keenly restricting her, it must be hard to see men’s freedoms as restricting some. Images are pernicious. I just image-searched “scientist”. The first pictures show a man, a woman, and a man and woman together, and are gender balanced. There is a row of options across the screen: click physics or chemistry, and the images are of men. Even in biology, which was seen as a “girl’s subject” at my school, the first pictures are all of men. Girls are not expected to be rational or put themselves forward. Girls are not given the tools to defend themselves from sex pests. Girls are expected to be demure and accommodating, passive not active, listening not speaking when important matters are discussed. Even if it is not always that bad, it can seem that way: any exceptions in treatment make the bad treatment more objectionable.

And if I say, I could not express my feelings, she might say well you can. Hurt, expressed as anger or resentment, is expected of boys and suppressed in girls. I feel released by transition, and she just cannot understand that. I feel able to be more expressive, but stating precisely how is difficult for me, especially if I have to communicate that to a sceptical other.

So when you said you understood how I had felt restricted it was salve on a chronic wound, the temporary lifting of a burden. I want to be understood, especially by you. I felt distorted, shoved into a box that did not fit me, confronted with demands I could not meet. And when I said “I am not that person” even to me it felt like weakness and inadequacy rather than otherness: my real gifts, not encouraged and so not developed, I did not see as gifts.

So much is pulling us apart. These women share alternative explanations for our transition. We are perverts, they say. It is autogynephilia. They have few privileges, and women’s spaces are important. We are a threat, men in women’s spaces, men exploiting programmes designed to overcome a few of women’s disadvantages under Patriarchy, such as all-women shortlists. These things should be for women born women, not males.

The dispute is primarily between trans women and women born women who insist they are women, that gender is oppressive and we conform to it, that transition is wrong. They see the issues in terms of lack, costs or risks for women: girls should not bind their breasts and make themselves sterile! Girls should not be forced into life-long dependency on dangerous drugs! Men should not pretend to be women! If you do not fit the expectations of your “gender” and demand to be accepted as yourself, as your sex and with all your qualities used and valued, transition appears a monstrous distortion.

If you feel restricted by society yet trenchantly assert your sex, you may feel society is pushing people into transition, a monstrous distortion serving gender myths. The leap of imagination is seeing transition as a response that people make, under the same oppression you suffer, even though it is not a response you could ever consider, even though it revolts you. I experienced gender expectations as restriction, rejection, devaluation, just as you did. Just as you should be supported in the way you respond, so should I. There is oppression. Let us work together against the oppression, rather than fight amongst ourselves about the different responses of oppressed people.

Two leaps of imagination are required. Those born men are oppressed too, are gender non-conforming too. And transition is a reasonable response to that oppression, even if it is not yours. And then a third- even though you may feel your allegiance is to women born women who refuse to transition, it is worthwhile to work with trans women, for by working together we can defeat the oppression. Even though our immediate interests may appear opposed- access to women’s space- our long term interests are the same.

In the East End

In the second pub, we drank under a picture of a man and a woman with a caption saying that Jack the Ripper’s first victim had drunk there just before she died. I went out to hunt for my bus stop, and passed Leman St., a name I know from Ripper Street on the telly. The first pub had, prominently, the words “A Spitalfields Institution since 1666” and a picture of Spitalfields in the present day, including Gilbert and George.

The theatre space we used was the Rag Factory. If done up, it could make £350,000 a year as offices, but this part is leased to 2035. When we got there the loos were not working, and Silas, who leases the place, had to heat the pipes with a blowtorch. The loo doors open onto a courtyard filled with junk and dirty snow. One part of the building is a showroom for next season’s fashions: it has £350 coats for 2018/19, and customers will examine them before ordering hundreds or thousands. We sold wine to the customers there, around 250ml in large plastic cups, and admired the beautiful things. The commercial lets support the theatre space. A man does night classes and four week intensive courses in Method acting.

Silas told of his other business ventures: he had an employment agency for actors. Ten actors would take on a job needing a team of six, so that they could always take time to attend auditions. It should not be that young struggling actors need trust funds to survive. He helped actors with their careers: they complained of their agents, doing nothing and taking 20%. Well, how much did you earn last year? £2000. £400 does not buy a lot of phone calls. Should the successful actors subsidise you? Getting an agent with a good name indicates someone thinks you have promise. Do what you’re good at: act, in a space with minimal lighting and scenery. Keep going to the auditions, and when you get a break that expensive agent will get you a good deal, and may open further doors for you. He did recruitment work. He would send one candidate, telling the client he had done the work, and got them the right person. The trouble with recruitment is that Linked In has taken over people’s contacts books, and done badly it is money for old rope. Just send a few people along and hope one is good enough. Done well, recruitment is a good trade, but the shysters drive out the good recruiters.

I met two of Drea’s admirers, both of whom I found charming. One is doing a Master’s degree at SOAS- “I didn’t want to leave University,” he said, self-deprecatingly- and working as a barman, or trainee sommelier. No job pays the living wage, he says. We discussed evolutionary psychology, part of his expertise, and I found contrary to expectation he was not a chest-thumper arguing men are dominant because of testosterone and a pre-history of mammoth-hunting, but feminist.

We discussed body-shaming.
-My breasts are small.
-No they’re not, they’re beautiful.
This implies small would be a bad thing, so must be denied. At least it means you don’t need a bra all the time.

There was snow, but the buses were running, and half the number of trains were running, double length. Going home alone after midnight I saw sleeping bags for rough sleepers in Charing Cross underground, and on the bus a man who had been casting glances at me since the bus stop leaned over to tell me “I am getting off now, madam”, perhaps as if I would follow him, as if I were a sex worker or interested in following strange men at night. That would be too much of an adventure for me.

I thought my camera would cope because of the light on our faces, but it did not, particularly, as the lights were all over the stage.

Breathing space

I need space to survive, and being trans restricts that. I need to be able to move through the world, with a home to live in, means of transport, meaningful work, streets I can walk down without fear, places I can go for help, ways of participating in social life. As I am trans I may face hostility, prejudice and discrimination limiting me. If I am out I will need lavatories.

I do not assert a right to be in any of these spaces. It feels as if I am there on sufferance, on the toleration of other people which is never guaranteed and may be withdrawn at any time.

I did not find another way of being. I tried to make a man of myself, to fit cultural masculinity because it seemed that otherwise I would be shunned. Then I found the delight of being my true self in the gay village in Manchester, and it seemed possible to be who I am as a trans woman, as a transsexual as I called it at the time. “I am not a man,” I wept, meaning that cultural masculinity did not fit me. It never seemed possible to live openly as a pansy, or soft male. I thought soft men were gay. My father, who might have been my pansy role model, used the word as an insult. He was my role model in hiding my softness away.

I fit into the world as a “trans woman”, mostly suffered or tolerated with some mockery, misunderstanding, hostility. Even with the hostility it is better than presenting male. Society tolerates me in women’s spaces. I use women’s loos and changing rooms. If gender neutral space- clothes shops, toilets, shelters- is to be carved out, a lot more people will have to identify as gender neutral than currently identify as trans.

I am gender critical. Gender is cultural, and not somehow related to evolved sex characteristics. After the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act we see that women can work as barristers and solicitors as well as men, and increasingly we see women in STEM. Women can vote without going insane, contradicting concerns expressed before 1918. Gendered responses are strongly conditioned in our society, enforced by most people from small children up. A man in a pink shirt was told he would have to give up his “man card”. Gender is orthogonal to sex, ideally: Jung said men must discover their anima, or inner feminine, and women their animus, and was right, but it is such a struggle achieved so late in life because of that conditioning.

Mumsnet TERFs started paying attention to my blog, and I have had 186 clicks from there, hundreds more page views. More people read such threads than comment on them, but the commentary on me is hostile. They judge me. I wrote on autogynephilia to show it cannot exist, but my words were used as proof of it. I hope I might have persuaded some who read without commenting, but they are interested in trans issues and reading TERF threads so it’s not certain.

They say, It is an issue of men’s right not to be inconvenienced.
AGP actively impedes the ability to empathize with women.

The issue is that I  need space. I am excluded, and they seek to exclude me further. If I see distress or hostility, my instinct is to back away, to seek a work-around rather than to provoke. I am empathising. I am there, due to forces I cannot control.

They doubt I am gender critical: being gender critical means conceptualising gender as an external imposition, not a spiritual identity.
I don’t understand how a MiT can call themselves a gender critical feminist… Without gender surely we remain with biology – a man being male and a woman being female?

I observe that people have gender, just that it does not correlate with sex. It is part of human variation. I object to procrustean attempts to constrain gender expression, not gender expression itself.

I observe that there is a great deal of unthinking enforcement of gender, and ways to subvert it: trans and non-binary, “gender-critical feminist” as an identity, building resistance, and attempts such as Natasha Devon’s challenging of stereotypes. She was the former “mental health tsar” and spoke to the Girls Schools Association conference- she has platforms.  The comments on this thread show thoughtful support and mindless hostility. There is movement.

How can gender stereotypes be subverted from where we are now? Partly through visible trans folk, living out our radical rejection of the gender norms fitting our birth sex. When I see gender neutral space, I will go there.

One says, Not every male has a sexual motive for transition (ie, gay males wanting to sleep with straight men aka HSTS, third gender etc; straight males getting off on feminine presentation aka AGP). There are some people with catastrophic body dysmorphia and some people who are genuinely in retreat from masculinity. But these people have nothing whatsoever to do with transactivism or transactivists and the reason we don’t hear from them is not that they’re the silent majority – it’s that the population is tinier than tiny.

She understands that body dysmorphia and being unManly are motivations, but divides the motivations into discrete categories, so that anyone who has ever been aroused can’t be in that “tinier than tiny” group. But no-one will transition M-F unless they feel themselves unManly. (Tell me a better word- “effeminate” really isn’t it.)

I am so sad that this has made me feel less compassion for trans people. I am sorry for them but I’m angry that their cause has been hijacked by cross dressing men… But I think I want to develop a ‘we don’t negotiate with terrorists’ stance. The trouble is that we have made a zero-sum game together. If she sees the problem as men in women’s space, I am in unwilling confrontation because I have nowhere else to go. The problem is, The Patriarchy. The problem is, gender conformity and gender enforcement. These problems we could attack together, but for the zero-sum game.

I managed to peak trans them [centre-left 30 something blokes] instantly with the sports issue. That is, Hannah Mouncey using masculine size competing against other women. They are “live and let live” people, like anyone they don’t show hatred for minorities easily, but she managed to make them hostile, and exults in this. Competitive female cyclists are far faster than I am. It isn’t relevant for most trans women. Some people go to Mumsnet to radicalise themselves, then go out to radicalise others.

The social contract

For as long as clothes have existed, men have dressed as women. Whether it means removal of penis and testicles by a single blow of a sword or a seven hour operation, being feted as a two-spirited shaman or the death penalty, people have expressed our gender and our true selves. Deuteronomy forbade it and Heliogabalus was murdered for it. God’s commands and the self-righteousness of violent hordes could not stop it. We did it in Molly clubs and in basements, in tights pinched from washing baskets when we were sure our parents were out and would not come back. We did it in shame and self-loathing, in resentment and fear, in proud defiance, and in blissed-out delight when we found acceptance.

And- not entirely an afterthought- AFAB people have presented as men, and been soldiers or academics or otherwise made their way in the world. But it seems to be trans women who bother the straights most.

There are straight people, more or less happy with gendered roles, and other groups: trans, non-binary, gender non-conforming. We can differentiate these people by behaviour, but not by their nature or characteristics of their true selves: whether a person manifests as trans or GNC may be an accident of their history. I find gender does not fit me, and proclaim I am a woman. An AFAB person finds gender oppresses her but asserts I Am a woman.

Straight people react differently. Those who are violent read us as victims, treat our difference as an excuse to hurt us, and attack. Those who value order and predictability in society condemn us as misfits, not differentiating between being a productive contributor to society and fitting restrictive norms. That becomes self-fulfilling: as expressing my gender is more important to me than anything else in the world, I am less productive if I cannot express it. And liberal folks who don’t really get why we care so much see that it is harmless, and find a way of accommodating it.

That way is transition. I see a psychiatrist, sign an affidavit saying I will live as a woman life long, and get a gender recognition certificate. I am a woman. This is the social contract. The normal people put up with me, as I am relatively harmless. I express myself as I wish, and become a productive member of society. It is not perfect, as there are still violent people and conservatives, but it sort of works. Rape Crisis Scotland says there is no conflict between trans rights and women’s rights, and works with us.

The conflict is with gender non-conforming people who want to express their gender without transition, mostly AFAB, or as they would say biological women. Cis is a slur, they say. There is the tragedy: people who do not fit normality in very similar ways at war about how we should be accommodated. Straight people are beginning to take sides. “Trans women are women” proclaims Rhea Wolfson, who is on Labour’s National Executive Committee. A woman on a facebook group expresses disquiet that the concerns of women are not being treated with respect.

It is expressed as a zero-sum game by A Woman’s Place. Either trans women are in women’s loos, changing rooms, hospital wards, prisons, refuges and crisis centres or we are not. Sometimes they proclaim earnest support for us and a wish that we are not victimised, sometimes loathing, mockery and threats of violence, but they are clear that we should be excluded, claiming threats to AFAB women which I feel are at best exaggerated, and egged on by extreme conservatives. Women’s Aid can work with us, so there are more constructive possibilities, but we have to find them and negotiate them.