Gender justice

There is another world where there is gender justice. There, a 5’2″, curvy young woman in a leadership role can issue a clear instruction and have it heard and obeyed, rather than having to persuade or even coax or wheedle. There, a 5’16” barrel-chested man can be a nursery nurse and no-one turns a hair. In the world of gender justice there is gendered expression but it is not linked to sex. People play with gender, and find new ways of expressing it, separately from expressing sexuality. I could signal my gender in man’s clothes, for my gender would be instantly accepted, no need for someone to think about it, no-one surprised by such gender in a man.

It is not Britain now, but it could be Britain in the future, and should be, and I want to work towards it. But how? And how could we be just to those oppressed by gendered expectations now, so that we may be most fully ourselves? Possibly the most difficult question is, can I imagine a way towards gender justice that fits more people than just me, and others I care about?

In such a world, would anyone suffer bodily dysphoria? I think not. Breasts would be great, for women and the people who love them, but there would be no need for binding, top surgery or implants. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Breasts would mean femaleness but not femininity.

It is crap, sometimes, being trans. Today Will, pronounced Wił, got chatting to me at the bus stop by asking if I was one of those trans women. He followed this up by complimenting my bravery and saying I look better than some real women he knows. Some trans women he knows look awful. They should make an effort. What’s it like? I think he was also asking whether I had had the operation, but being coy about it. He’s a scaffolder, aged 46, and he’s spent five years in Amsterdam, which he finds lovely. No-one turns a hair. You can just be yourself. Others have told me this, that men can be unaffectedly feminine there, and there is still about 1:3800 transwomen. 4,432 trans women visited the Amsterdam gender identity clinic between 1980 and 2015, and most recently 65% of them started hormone therapy within five years. 75% of those had gonadectomy, and only 0.6% of them were identified as regretting it. Some data could be missing, but the study is happy to conclude “the percentage of people who regretted gonadectomy remained small”.

Even if men can be feminine, they felt the need to transition physically, and did not regret it. I regret it. That puts me in a small number. I have little sexual sensation or response, and I have heard before that others have better results, and that regret is linked to poor results. So, seeking gender justice now I should not oppose GRS because I personally regret it. I might say data is missing, and some people could not even admit to themselves that they regretted gonadectomy, and some became happily asexual, without feeling romantic attractions, but not as many as 50%. However some might find the idea of gonadectomy repulsive, could not imagine how it could be right for anyone in any circumstances, and conclude that it must be discouraged in every possible way.

However, now, it is encouraged. Non-trans people seem to have more respect for people who transition than for people who play with gender, sometimes presenting male, sometimes female. My neighbour stopped saying hello after he saw me dressed female, but started again after I stopped dressing male. The Equality Act protects people who intend to transition to the other sex, but not people who are non-binary. There is social pressure to transition, and to have surgery: Will’s way of asking would only get a response if I would feel ashamed of not having it, proud of having it, and would claim to be true transsexual. Like asking a Scot if he wears anything under his kilt: if not, he will probably tell you, because that is the approved way.

Similarly, a person should not use her feelings of horror and disgust at the thought of someone having their breasts or gonads removed as a way to decide that no-one should have it done or anyone who has it done is necessarily deluded. It is a thing people do, in this place without gender justice.

Regretting, I am crippled with self-blame.

How could I be so stupid?

Fortunately, Lucy, Virgil to my Dante, has the answer:

It was the best I could do at the time.

Regretting, and wanting sexual intimacy terribly, and feeling it is impossible now, I have no-one to blame but myself. However, given my situation and my history at the time it was what I wanted more than anything else in the world. My surgery came from the way the world is rather than any inadequacy or wrongness on my part.

Transition is a way people cope with gender dysphoria. People should be able to transition. This is not the world of gender justice, and some people express their gender this way.

I suppose it is a separate issue how trans women should be treated. Given that this is not the world of gender justice, should we be humoured and agreed with- “Trans women are women”- or not? To me, I exist, I have feelings, I have needs, this is the way it has been, there is no great need to change that. This is the way I can be myself.

Do non-trans women need space which is free from trans women as well as from non-trans men? If there is no pressing need, but they want it, are they entitled to it? Various things are thought relevant to that: are trans women really dangerous? Are non-trans women reasonably afraid of trans women, and if they want separate spaces and services should they be accommodated? Given that women often feel pressured to consider others’ feelings, or shoved aside, should they be empowered by being able to exclude trans women? Given that trans women are vulnerable too, how should we be accommodated?

I feel that accommodating trans people increases gender freedom and makes gender justice more likely. My gender critical friend finds trans a ridiculous palaver: why not just be yourself? Why all this dressing-up and repulsive body-alteration? To me, it is the only way some people find to be themselves. People do it. “But that’s ridiculous” is no answer.

Some women, not all, object to me in women’s space. Balancing my rights and needs against theirs is difficult. I can’t propose a way to do that. It seems to me, if not to them, that the women who care most about this are the ones most scarred by gender as it is now. Pitting us against each other is the most damaging way. How could I want to hurt someone, who seems wronged in the way I am?

Gender non-conforming

What does “gender non-conforming” mean to you? To me it’s quite clear: there are gender stereotypes, most people more or less fit them, gender non-conforming means you don’t and you don’t want to pretend that you do. Gender-punk I quite like: the person who told me about it is clearly AMAB, and wears skirts in public without breast forms or make-up. Cross-dressers and trans women genderally try to look like women,  but this person chooses the pronoun “they” and doesn’t, though their height might make it difficult. They mix it up, choose what they like. The clothes and mannerisms are symbols, which indicate an underlying personality, and they break expectations. I usually see them in skirts which don’t look feminine at all, just practical.

-Ooh look, a man in a skirt! shouted someone at them.
-Ooh look, a woman in trousers! they riposted.

So depending on how non-conforming, or how uncomfortable with gender stereotypes you were, there would be say 10% of women and 10% of men who were so far from the stereotype as to be gender non-conforming. That would include all lesbian, gay, bi or trans folks but a lot of others too, and we could all join in one big happy family because we had that in common, and advance our rights together.


Some people think gender stereotypes matter, and they will be judged and punished for breaching them. We observe the bullying of non-conforming boys, we were bullied like that, we have an idea of masculinity which we don’t fit and it crucifies us. Some people are comfortable with a wide range of behaviour, some of which might seem to fit the gender stereotype and some not. And the stereotype itself is fuzzy- how rigid or restrictive is it, really?

I was chatting with a gay man about “gender diversity”. He agreed with my definition of gender diversity, and we agreed a woman we know might fit in a “gender diversity community” or a “queer” group. I don’t think she would agree. A feminist perspective is that women are oppressed- disrespected, treated as sex objects, disadvantaged because of their reproductive systems, as women. Then the gender stereotype is part of the oppression of women, and no-one fits it, not really. It is a series of demands and expectations, such as being the carer in all sorts of situations, which oppress every woman.

Though not all women are feminists in the same way, and some find feminism means they can choose those “feminine” roles- it is the right to choose, not the particular thing chosen, that matters. Then some are clearly gender conforming. It does not follow that those who are not will ever identify as gender non-conforming. Just as heavy drinkers think they are average drinkers, women particularly distant from the gender stereotype think all women are equally distant.

I don’t understand. I knew before I transitioned that even if I reverted, I needed to go through transition or I would be stuck in my desire for it. To live as a man I needed to transition to female. Does that make any sense at all to you? I don’t want to revert now, it would be too much trouble, yet I wish I could have avoided it. From this particular position, I don’t understand anyone else. I don’t understand the trans woman or trans man who talks of their gender identity, which looks to me like a verbal justification for a particular act, not an objective measurable thing. My identity is me, which formerly was “a trans woman” and is now “a feminine male”. I am a trans woman because I have transitioned and not reverted. As I see gender roles as important and limiting, I don’t understand anyone who breaches them without seeming to care.

For gender non-conformity to mean something we need an idea of what feminine gender is, and to believe that some women fit it. Many of those women I think are gender non-conforming deny there is a coherent concept of femininity, or that anyone fits it. Being gender non-conforming, they believe, makes them feminist, not part of some queer subculture.

So it is possible to identify as gender non-conforming, to feel something in common with other GNC people and find some value and self-understanding in the term, but not possible to define it or apply it to anyone who does not apply it to themself.

Gender is innate

“You’ve admitted gender is cultural,” she said. “So how can it possibly be innate?”

I have a personality which is innate, or at least formed in early nurture and not easily changed now except by brain injury or disease. That personality has traits culturally associated with femininity. Yes, gender is cultural: what is thought of as proper to or natural for men or for women is defined by the culture, and does not fit people. So there are males- to use that gender critical terminology- naturally feminine, masculine, from the extremes to points in the middle, and females the same. The personality is innate, and judged “feminine” according to cultural understandings. My culturally feminine gender is innate. Let us change the culture- but until that great task is completed, I have to deal with a feminine personality in a male body.

For a woman who finds femininity restrictive, it is easier to see femininity as oppressive than masculinity. Women were thought emotional creatures not rational like men, and still thought less capable of or inclined to STEM jobs. Women are thought better at caring jobs like in nursing. Culturally feminine jobs get paid less. Unpaid caring work is done mostly by women. We imagine leaders as men. A fearless, fiercely intelligent woman might see a man “oppressed” into a more senior position she judged him incompetent for, and crave such “oppression” rather than her own. I see that; and I feel my own oppression keenly, disparaged for character traits I see as positive, encouraged to suppress them and pretend to others which fit me less well because they are seen as “manly”.

I do not want to define my femininity, because that opens it to attack- that is not you; not feminine; not valuable, squishy rather than soft. I have had a go. I have no wish to defend it against a sceptic. No-one has the right to demand I prove it to their satisfaction. Yet I believe in it. It led me to transition, and greater comfort presenting female than male. I feel assenting or compliant rather than assertive, though I assert myself doggedly when driven to it.

I am more comfortable transitioned. It feels that I can better express that culturally feminine, innate personality. It feels less surprising to others, more tolerated, less deprecated. That’s my perception which may not accord with people’s actual attitudes to me. It may be echoes of the attitudes of others long ago, or part of someone’s response which raises echoes within me or is particularly noticeable to me. I like to think it is not a complete fantasy, though it seems like one sometimes: because some people disapprove of transition rather than my personality traits, and I am sensitive to that. I am constantly struggling for self-respect, intensely sensitive to the merest hint that I am living in a fantasy.

My gender, those aspects of my personality which are culturally seen as gendered, is innate. Possibly there are advantages to seeing my qualities as “feminine”, in some way linked by the likelihood of people having one to have the others. More likely the concept of “feminine” gets in the way, making us less likely to perceive them in men, more likely to demand them from women, or imagine some group of attributes as linked when they may not be. We have stereotypes about people because we want to predict them before we know them. The stereotype may make our predictions more wrong than right but we might still cling to it because it gives the illusion of understanding. It gets in the way of knowing others, even of knowing ourselves.

But while we have the concepts of femininity and masculinity, transition makes sense, enabling people to live more comfortably in society. It is not for everyone, and someone much more clearly gender non-conforming than I might reject it. She is a woman, women can be like she is, and she will brook no denial. She perceives transition enjoined by society rather than merely tolerated, and is revolted. Whether we transition or not, gender non-conforming people have a hard time, and should stick together despite the mutual incomprehension of GNC males and females, with our vastly differing personalities, and of those who transition and those who would never consider it.

Coming back to this later, I see Patriarchy as a rejoinder: Patriarchy oppresses women, and so the concept of femininity is worse than useless. Someone might find it as oppressive and negative as I find “effeminate”. I might use “Kyriarchy” as a riposte, as many are oppressed: women, LGBT, BAME, disabled… This is the squabbling of the oppressed, which can only benefit oppressors. So my opponents would be better to just give in.

Someone wrote on Facebook, I am also a gender critical feminist who believes gender is innate. But I have a different take on this since I come from a different position. I agree that gender is both innate and constructed. The bit that’s constructed is how one expresses ones gender. For example the colour pink. This is ‘chosen’ by girls across the land because they love how girly it is, and yet it was historically more a colour for boys. And for another example, I loved Lego and science and making things and hated wearing a dress. This is what made me a “tomboy”. But the sense of ones gender “fit” is what’s innate. As my body began to take a female form I had no dysphoria. Thus my gender fitted. And as I grew into my body beyond my teenage years and began to be sexual with it, I took even more pleasure in it, feeling not only did it fit but it gave me a sense of eroticism as a woman. Of being positively glad to be as I am.

So I’m different to what you describe in that my innate sense of my gender in terms of what I chose to do or wear and how I behaved was and still is very masculine, but that doesn’t give me an innate sense of being a man. Just a woman who presents in a masculine way; if you choose to label it that way. However, I think things would have gone a different way for me had my puberty filled me with dysphoria.

It’s so much easier in our society to be a female with masculine traits than vice versa; it causes issues but they are less aggressive ones.

Someone else: I value your youness and tender, insightful, nourishing words.

How many trans people?

It depends on what you mean by trans people: people with gender recognition certificates, people living full time in a new gender, people who would like to transition but for insuperable difficulties, people who cross-dress…

Is the number growing? There are no clear answers. The Office for National Statistics has no established estimates. The census of 2011 had a question asking sex, giving the options male or female. I am non-binary. There was no question on that.

Since 2005, only a few thousand people have received gender recognition certificates, but they are expensive, and require a specialist psychiatrist’s letter. Many might not bother, but would get a GRC after self-certification. About two hundred trans people a year have genital operations on the NHS, about the number of new GRCs.

Many more people might call themselves transgender. The ONS puts it at 0.5-1%, or about half a million people. The Equality and Human Rights Commission put it at 1%.

Ten years ago the government commissioned the Gender Identity Research and Education Society, GIRES, to estimate the number of trans people. They considered passports, which can be changed as soon as you transition. They estimated 300,000-500,000 people experiencing some degree of gender variance. Many would not act on that, or might dress at home. It’s about feelings, not actions. If you are unhappy with your assigned gender, and have to hide that, it affects you adversely.

In the next census, there should be a question on sex assigned at birth then a question on gender identity. If it asked “do you identify as a transgender person” not all the 500,000 people might say yes, and some might mock the question: the 2011 census question on religion identified 176,632 “Jedi knights”, down from 390,000 in 2001. Some are in denial, and some would not like to admit it. Many of that half million will never take any action to change their gender presentation.

Not all trans children come out to their parents, who would answer the census question on their behalf. The 2021 census will have to be designed soon.

The Yougov poll asked people to define their gender on a scale from 0, completely masculine, to 6, completely feminine. 2% of males aged 18-24 said they were “completely feminine”, 8% said they did not know, and 3% said they were neither masculine nor feminine. No females aged 18-24 said they were completely masculine, but 7% did not know and 10% said neither. More men had a negative than positive view of masculinity, but women were more positive. Both sexes were strongly positive about femininity. Only 28% of British men, but 42% of American men, said they were completely masculine.

I wonder how many women “wear the trousers” in their heterosexual relationship, but can’t find anyone even asking the question.

Most data from More or Less on Radio 4.

I calculated about 40,000 have transitioned in the UK. This is how I worked it out.

Not transgender: a tomboy.

A mother writes in the New York Times of her daughter, who wears track pants and t-shirts, who aged seven affects a Luke Skywalker hair cut, and who, having been told she is a “tomboy” identifies as that, though she asks why it is a tomboy. She is quite sure she is a girl and not trans. Wanting freedom and respect for children who identify as trans, we surely want the same for children, however they identify.

The mother has read up on puberty blockers, and is quite willing to accept if her child decides she is a trans boy; but the child does not say that. The mother accepts her child’s decisions, as when aged three she wanted clothes like her father’s. By her own words she is the model parent for a trans child, accepting and backing up her child, though the child does not identify as trans; I believe her.

Why would a child identify as trans? Would a child who is reassured that they can behave as they like, as far as gender roles go, never consider that they were really trans? If a boy wants a princess dress from the Disney store, does that make him a girl? Would a boy imagine he was a girl, because he picks up from the culture that those things are for girls?

That is, is there a gender identity or just motivation towards certain behaviour?

Parental support needs to be self-sacrificial, like Billy Elliot’s father scabbing during the miner’s strike to support his son’s ballet ambitions. Even then, the family need some support and recognition from outside, or the child may go along with their peers’ ways. They have, after all, to know they can survive in the world.

The mother criticises the teacher in the after-school club, who asked, Your child wants to be called a boy, right? Or is she a boy that wants to be called a girl? Which is it again? The implication of the article is that if the child is non-conforming, there is pressure on the family to transition. People understand transition now, and the mother implies some think it appropriate for non-conforming children. I hope a teacher or doctor would want to ensure that the parent was not moulding a child to prevent transition, and such moulding could be done subtly- of course the child can climb trees, or wear what s/he likes, but must never talk of being a boy. Children can read their parents, what is approved or disapproved.

The mother writes of her objection to the child being asked- but it is the child’s decision, and a question is not a demand. Properly used, questions can help a child understand the range of her/his options. They had not known it was possible until they heard of it.

More generally, if gender roles are not enforced on anyone, will anyone transition? Commenters talk of when they were girls, or children they know, in the 1950s or 1970s playing with a pedal car marked “Police” or feeding ants to spiders. Others talk of now. I am a woman; I love fashion and am considered attractive. And yet I am a scientist, an atheist, and a science-fiction nerd. I despise romances and chic lit. I am not warm, supportive or nurturing. Another says Speaking as a short-haired, slacks-wearing adult woman working in a male field who nevertheless feels feminine, I think it’s important to keep looks/roles separate from deeper identities. She feels the feminine makeup skirts heels look is expensive and uncomfortable.

Trans folk need freedom for everyone. In a society where gender roles are rigid, trans people will be excluded. It seems to me that adults are freer to express themselves as they wish; and yet the numbers transitioning increase. This is because trans is real for people, not just adjusting to circumstances.

New York Times article.

Gender Diverse

Is it possible that trans women and radical feminists could be allies, working together for common goals? Could there be a Big Tent, the largest possible group of people with common interests identifying as part of that group, choosing its name for themselves and working in its interests? The name is “Gender diverse”, the ten percent or more of the population far enough from the Patriarchal ideal of what a man or woman should be to be most uncomfortable about it. We could see the damage done by the pressures of Patriarchy, and not be too critical about the ways others cope.

The name is not “gender-critical”, because that is a far larger group, including even the most “manly” man who recognises that gender ideals do not fit people, and works against their injurious effects, because accepting diversity liberates everyone.

Nor is the name “gender non-conforming”, for that is a choice about how we cope with the problem. Twenty years ago I remarked to Steve how like a straight man he seemed, even appearing to be mimicking a straight relationship. Steve told me he had had to learn to pass as straight because of his career, but after midnight in a 24 hour supermarket he noticed most of the people there were gay men, “And I camped it up with the rest of them”. One of the objections to trans people is that we are gender ultra-conforming, though social conservatives do not agree. I don’t behave in an ultra-feminine way because I imagine that is how a woman should be, but because that is the closest I can get to authenticity. I am not conforming to my upbringing.

Gender diverse includes people happy in themselves, and people deeply unhappy, depending on how aware they are of the risks of non-conformity, how much they falsely value the false ideal, or how much in denial they are. We might disagree about complete solutions, or the way forward now, but could agree on the basic problem, that patriarchy imposes an ideal manliness or femininity which does not fit more than a tiny proportion of the population. We could recognise that while in your face non-conformity and gender transition are incompatible ways of combating the problem, they are both brave ways of subverting the patriarchal ideals. People suffer for them. We have a lot in common, however much soft men and viragos appear different. The word “virago” was imposed by men to control women called unnatural, but has been claimed by Virago Press.

Those who choose other ways of coping with gender diversity are not our enemies. They make choices we would not make but like us make those choices under oppression. We all do the best we can. Some will just live their lives and undertake no political activity. Some have repellent views- some trans women support the US Republican party- but it is the views that are repellent, not the transition. Each will campaign most for people who choose their particular solution, being most interested in the rights of people most like them. I am trans, so I am a trans activist. But we can recognise commonalities in others’ suffering, and recognise their bravery in combating it, even if their solutions are completely different from ours.

We need to talk about transphobia. It exists, even if not everything a trans activist might call transphobic is. Just as some people are irrationally averse to spiders, some are to trans folk. I had a good working relationship with a colleague, but when I transitioned at work she found it difficult. Knowing that the employer’s diversity policy, and English law, were on my side she explained it to me. She was revolted by me. I was sorry. I missed our useful co-operation. We kept apart as much as possible, and could talk when necessary.

Most people are self-righteous about transphobia. When a man I had never met passed me in the street, hissing “Fucking nonce”, I wondered at how he hated me, to call me a sex offender. A woman wrote online, “maybe I, a Socialist, will vote for Cruz because he will appoint conservative judges who won’t give in to the bathroom bullshit”. Is not bodily autonomy and the right to birth control more important? Feminists should be allies to those described by others as “trans-excluding”, but might notice when someone may not have a sense of proportion about it. And many women support trans women: a friend told me she would be outraged if a trans woman were excluded from the rape crisis centre where she worked.

Some object to “trans ideology”. It takes bravery to transition. Because we are terrified and self-hating, many trans women attempt to be hyper-manly. The idea that we are “really” women enables us to cease that hypocrisy. Years after transitioning, Jan Morris admitted on the radio that she was not a woman. Before transition we reinforce patriarchy. After, we subvert it.

Some of us are revolting. A prisoner gaming the system claimed to be trans in order to be searched only by female officers, then be sexually abusive. If the battle lines were less fraught between some feminists and trans women, then trans women could curb the excesses of our kind. Some of us try already.

A woman putting the case for excluding trans women from women’s bathrooms told me, “I don’t want a woman who objects to be automatically the one in the wrong”. If we work together can we make better solutions?

Now, social conservatives work to exclude trans folk from the toilets of our claimed gender. They pretend concern for women, which might sound less hollow if they were working to reduce domestic violence. They are not your friends, but I hope we trans people can be.


What is Trans?

What does “Trans” mean? There are many answers, and this is mine.

Trans starts with the concepts of “masculinity” and “femininity”, which do not fit men and women as we really are. At its worst, toxic masculinity rejects the expression of emotion apart from anger and derision. Boys and men are expected to put on a manly mask which suffocates them. Women are objectified, valued for their looks, treated as weaker and needing looked after by men while made responsible for most housework and care of children, the disabled and elderly. Feminists call this “patriarchy” and differ in their emphasis on how it affects men, but it hurts everyone apart from a very few high-status men.

Patriarchy fits no-one. Everyone needs to deny part of themselves to fit in. Those who particularly do not fit are trans, or trans-like people. To call myself a “feminine” man is ridiculous, as “feminine” relates to women, but the word has come to denote qualities prescribed by patriarchy for women, such as being sensitive, empathetic, compassionate, communal, unselfish, supportive, motherly, nurturing, gentle, forgiving, and caring. These are my natural qualities, though my attempt to be a “Real Man” has twisted me.

Femininity can also refer to certain mannerisms, body language, or physical appearance.

I am mostly interested in trans women. Some of what I say could also apply to trans men, and I could use inclusive language, but will discuss trans women only. Trans women may be Gynephile, attracted to women, or Androphile, attracted to men. Androphiles are called “Homosexual” by the researchers, denying that they are women, and Gynephiles are called “Non-homosexual”, which I find demeaning, even though some of us present as bisexual or asexual. If I am not a woman then I am heterosexual, attracted to women. Trans in androphile and gynephiles may be different phenomena with different causation.

There is research on trans, and on the wider question of whether femininity and masculinity have any reality separate from culture. There is a wide range of masculinity and femininity in men and women, but by and large women are more feminine. Whether nature causes this, or nurture, culture and society, is strongly disputed. I would not accuse researchers of fitting the evidence to their preconceptions, but the questions are so political that they might choose research projects to confirm their claims, and interpreters can be wholly political. I read one conservative Christian sniffing that trans women’s brains are different because we obsess about trans, promoting dendrite growth in particular areas. And even if parents of both sexes expect a toddler boy to slide down a steeper slide than girls the same age, what could that mean? I do not have the time or education to assess individual research papers, leave alone the wider questions.

Studies show some brain differences- in the 1990s I was aware that brain dissection had found the BSTc, the central subdivision of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, is twice the size in men as in women, slightly larger in gay men, and female size in trans women, but what could cause that or what it could mean is a mystery to me. We could use it for large claims, that trans women are apart from men, really women, and some do, and there is a huge backlash. Brain research does not justify the large claims of some trans folk.

There is no clear cut-off between trans and cis-gendered. There is a spectrum of masculinity to femininity in men. So other circumstances will decide whether you transition, such as whether you have a partner and what they feel about it, what your job prospects are, or how well you pass. I read of a person who had been the subject of a documentary on transition, but stopped when he found a male partner.

Some men are aroused by cross-dressing, or by thoughts of themselves as women. This is more likely a by-product of being feminine than the cause of transition. Some are satisfied with recreational cross-dressing: at the Northern Concord, it seemed to me that some were just blokes down the pub, who happened to be dressed rather strangely, and some were feminine.

My particular interest is the gynephile trans woman, especially me, and her counterpart the masculine woman: viragos and harridans, sissies and pansies. This is the sexual orientation that has only hurtful names- the woman “wears the trousers”, the man is “pussy-whipped”. “Beta male” may be a more positive term, or “Alpha female”, but both these terms are claimed by other groups. My parents were like this, terrified of people finding out, and inculcated in me terrible shame. My mother would not let me play with Action Man because “boys should not play with dolls”. My father objected to women on Radio 4, claiming to loathe the sound of their voices.

In the Underground last week I saw a woman, her leg crossed, her foot against the shin of her man, holding his hand and squeezing or pinching it. I felt they might have such a relationship, and felt envy. It is not the same as BDSM.

I don’t know how the desire to present female and actual femininity are related. I tend to feel that some men feel that their characteristics are more acceptable in women, and it is in part a desire to fit in with social norms. I lay on the floor weeping “I am not a man”- if only I could have realised I am not that kind of man.

Though I had the operation, I oppose it. I had it because I thought that it would make me part of an acceptable class, that it was better to be transsexual than transvestite, rather than because I wanted it for itself. Before, I had been ashamed of my slim wrists and arms, but after I found them beautiful, so it enabled me to love my body- but I wish I had found some other way. For a time, it all seemed to fit: I was a “woman”, so I felt this way, and was pleased to appear this way. Possibly we have the operations because doctors wanted to be seen to be doing something, or even wanted a subject to experiment on. I feel some people want the operation simply for itself, and should be allowed to have it. In a world without patriarchy, we could know.

I have fellow-feeling with radical feminists, even TERFs. They are revolted by body-modification, and some lack any sense of proportion about trans women, as if we are the only feminist issue they care about, but they are often masculine women, and not fitting Patriarchy in a complementary way to me- how could I not sympathise? I would put them in a group with trans folk, those who are gender non-conforming, who do not fit patriarchal views of gender. We have so much in common, it is hard that we do not work together. We are oppressed by Patriarchy in such similar ways.

The basic phenomenon is feminine men and masculine women, but how we respond to that is shaped by the culture and our experience. I suppressed it, and tried to be Real Manly for years. There is transphobia, and internalised transphobia, which prevents us from flourishing. We learn to be ourselves better, but still in ways twisted by oppression. We must build coalitions and learn to resist oppression more effectively.

The words you use to describe the phenomenon affect how you understand it. But we don’t understand it, not really, so we need to keep playing with the words. I would ask potential transitioners, Who are you? What would really fulfil you- is it really this off-the-peg solution? I would refer to “gender diversity” rather than trans, for “gender-diverse” is how people are, and “trans” or even “gender-non-conformity” are choices, ways to deal with the pressures of Patriarchy on gender diverse folk.