Trans people, standing up for ourselves

Trans people tell our life stories.

After an enquiry by a parliamentary committee in 2016, a consultation, ministerial foot (and knuckle) dragging, we now have another enquiry by the same committee, and trans folk are fed up. In evidence to the committee, Genie put it brilliantly:

You shouldn’t still be asking these questions; please make trans people’s lives easier and do what you said you were going to do, or leave us completely alone. This has become policy theatre to appease bigots, and we know you know that.

Debbie wrote, “We are not what is between our legs. We are not the shape of our chests. We are not our pasts.”

Deborah wrote, “We’ve always been here, we always will be. The government can either treat us as equals, or join the oppressors.”

Emma writes, “You shouldn’t have to pay to be your gender”.

I have not read all the evidence, and brilliant clear exposition of the issues shines out of trans people’s submissions. People told their experiences:

One of my earliest memories is being six years old and crying at a dance competition because I couldn’t wear dresses like the other girls. That was 1975. I very quickly learned that I had to conform, hide who I was. Over the years, this has caused mental issues. When puberty hit, I became a troubled teen, desperate to fit in. I ran away from home and was in trouble with the law, but somehow, I came through that. … At fourteen, a child psychiatrist diagnosed it as disassociate personality disorder, which meant he knew the person he was talking to wasn’t me. I went to university, I fell in love, I married and I had children. Eventually, the façade broke too much to be fixed. It’s hard to maintain. As I approached forty I became anorexic and withdrawn. Eventually, after therapy, I told my wife what the reasons were. I’d finally come to understand myself who I was. Pre-internet I had zero access to information, between 1995 and 2005 I didn’t dare look, for fear of what I’d find. Before 2010, it was still sordid. And then we got the first glimpses of being accepted. I finally could admit to myself first and others after, who and what I was. This wasn’t a perversion. I started the process of transitioning in 2012 and this process turned a dour, dark, depressed individual into somebody who was finally happy inside and out. I’m accepted for who I am at work and with friends. The recent furore over the gender recognition certificate has turned the UK back into a toxic environment for trans people. I can’t go back. I’ve been in the light, a return to darkness would kill me.

“Jane Doe” is a transmedicalist. She writes,

GRC is for those meeting a diagnosis of Transsexual, a permanent desire to make a change. Transgender is a broader term and includes many people who consider their identity fluid. It is to be expected that only a small subset of those identifying as transgender would be eligible for / find it appropriate to acquire a GRD. In essence you are conflating Transsexual and Transgender – they are different.

She is in error. Many people now on the waiting list for gender clinics identify as trans women, but most of them want hormones and surgery.

Opening a tranche of the evidence files, I found eleven trans women and one trans man. The Revd. Alex Clare-Young is a minister in the URC. He had his GRC application rejected because he did not give medical reasons for not having received particular medical treatments. He objects to “discussing one’s genitalia with a panel of strangers”. Bravely, he writes of his experience of assault.

it was extremely difficult for me to access smear tests, despite the fact that I still had a cervix when I reached the eligible age. The system simply didn’t recognise me because in order to change my gender to male, it also changed my sex to male.

Unlike Jane, he stands up for all trans people including gender fluid and nonbinary people.

Katherine disagrees with me. I don’t expect all trans people to have one view. She writes, “I have no personal objection to being transgender being considered through a medical lens, but I know some people do, so I’d just say it’s not a trivial issue.” She too suffered sexual assault, and worries about accessing services.

Nova writes,

I am 22 years old and I’m Transgender. I am currently on the waiting list to see a gender specialist for Hormone replacement therapy and a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. For all my life, I have felt uncomfortable in my skin. I used to dream about being the opposite sex, wearing their clothes, living their life, being regarded as one of them and not what my outer appearance betrays. For in My head, I have a brain that does not match my body. And looking back, all the awkward moments in my childhood make sense, I was being forced to live a lie.

Haters might pick on the mention of clothes, but it’s not about clothes: it’s about expressing our true selves.

She says that GPs should be able to diagnose gender dysphoria and prescribe hormones. The criteria are not difficult. That would get rid of the waiting lists. She dislikes the waiting period: “We are treated like defective machines that must prove they are defective by playing what you believe is “dress up” for two years only to then be assessed by two people just to decide if actually, this is just our natural state of being.”

Alexis makes the obvious point that if the WHO says gender incongruence is not an illness, a diagnosis is otiose. I hope they get that point. She says people don’t get GRCs because it’s expensive and makes no practical difference to our lives. She says how the hate campaign has made trans people afraid. So many of us could make the same points.

Jay is a healthcare professional. She says trans people wait a year even for private treatment. She only legally changed her name one year ago despite transitioning five years ago and using the name informally. She is now concerned she might not be entitled to a GRC because of the delay.

Desirae: “Being trans is not a disease.” She thinks a GRC should be no harder to get than a passport. She has not suffered discrimination, but waited three years to get a first appointment to a GIC.

It is compelling stuff. I assume a researcher will read the evidence, distilling the main points and arguments for the MPs.

Evidence for gender recognition reform

The Women and Equalities Committee is seeking evidence on gender recognition reform. This is torture. The WEC in 2016 took evidence and decided that trans legal rights should be improved. Then the Tory government said no. Then Theresa May, then Prime Minister, in 2017 said trans legal rights should be improved in this small, merely symbolic way. Then they delayed and delayed and delayed. Then Liz Truss said no. This phrase Truss used, “kinder and more straightforward”, while retaining all the unkind and Byzantine bits, was particularly cruel. It’s not gaslighting, as gaslighting is about making you doubt your own perceptions, but the feeling is as painful, hope given then slowly withdrawn.

The deadline is 27 November.

Trans and LGBT+ groups can give evidence on the effects on trans people as a whole. Lawyers can debate the meaning of the various provisions. For individuals, the main evidence is personal experience. No, the system now does not work, and this is why. Any number of trans people, all saying why the system is unworkable and humiliating, might help. Why should the Gender Recognition Panel be entitled to know what is between my legs? “Have you had the operation?” It’s the question the tolerant, curious members of the public ask trans women, to find whether we are “real transsexuals” or not. It is humiliating.

How does it make you feel?

How has it affected you? With Theresa May tantalising us in July 2017, and the hate campaign waged ever since by anti-trans campaigners in The Times and elsewhere, what experience have you of anti-trans hate? Some certainty, with the law reformed and not going to be reformed again, might help. When have you been excluded? When have you been unwelcome? When have you felt unwelcome?

If I give evidence about the humiliation, it may be published on line under my name. I can ask for my name to be withheld, or for the evidence to be considered but not published, and I have no idea whether they would do that. I hope the committee would not put my name, which could be found by google, next to an account of my experiences. However, putting my name might make my evidence stronger. I am prepared to put my name to this.

There are eleven MPs on the committee: six Tory, four Labour, one SNP. None are out as trans or nonbinary, and two appear to be men, the rest women. I have not heard of them. Caroline Nokes, the chair, appears to be an ally. I assume they have researchers to assist.

The questions are lengthy and detailed. They give scope for trans people to give our personal experience, to show why the system is not working.

Some can be given a clear answer. “Should the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria be removed?” Of course. When the ICD changes in January 2022, gender dysphoria will not be classified as an illness, and it is not an illness now. Some people are trans. We know we are trans. There should be no requirement for psychiatrists to be involved, any more than you need a psychiatrist to certify you are gay before you have a same-sex marriage. That this is so clear says something about Truss’s refusal to reform the system. Doctor’s letters are expensive and unnecessary, yet she retains the requirement.

I am not ill. ICD 11 confirms I am not ill. To require me to get a letter from a specialist psychiatrist saying I am not ill in a particular way is ridiculous.

Some of the questions are very wide. “What else should the Government have included in its proposals, if anything?” Design your own system.

Unfortunately, there is the question “Are the provisions in the Equality Act for the provision of single-sex and separate-sex spaces and facilities in some circumstances clear and useable for service providers and service users? If not, is reform or further guidance needed?” It gives transphobes an excuse to vomit their hate.

These are my answers to the questions. I have not decided whether to give evidence. Evidence should not be published elsewhere. If it is longer than 3000 words you should give a summary.

Will the Government’s proposed changes meet its aim of making the process “kinder and more straight forward”?

No.

Should a fee for obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate be removed or retained? Are there other financial burdens on applicants that could be removed or retained?

The fee should be no greater than for a duplicate birth certificate. Doctor’s letters cost money. If you have a GRC, tell of the worry and expense. If not, say what has deterred you. If you can’t yet, say what difference it might make.

Should the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria be removed?

Yes (see above).

Should there be changes to the requirement for individuals to have lived in their acquired gender for at least two years?

It should be possible to get a GRC before living in the acquired gender. Though the NatWest bank had a policy allowing change of gender, the ignorant man who served me did not know it, and demanded that I produce a passport in my new name before he would change my name on my account. I had to complain about him. The time I need a GRC is when I change all my details. So, giving evidence:

What is your view of the statutory declaration and should any changes have been made to it?

It should record only that I am trans, and what my gender is, in the words I choose.

Does the spousal consent provision in the Act need reforming? If so, how? If it needs reforming or removal, is anything else needed to protect any rights of the spouse or civil partner?

If the spouse or civil partner objects to gender change, the marriage is over. Either the objection or the change could be construed to be “unreasonable behaviour” so there is grounds for divorce for either party. The other party should not be able to block gender recognition. Again, the call is for “evidence”- I might leave that question for those who have had a spousal refusal of consent. If you have had that experience, give evidence.

Should the age limit at which people can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) be lowered?

Yes. Again, if you have had the experience of transition before age 18, or knowing you wanted to, tell the committee about it.

What impact will these proposed changes have on those people applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate, and on trans people more generally?

Virtually none. Here is the Ministerial statement. The changes are to “place the whole procedure online”, which makes no sense- you swear or affirm a statutory declaration before a solicitor or magistrate, and cannot do that online. And to reduce the fee of £140, which is not the main expense.

What else should the Government have included in its proposals, if anything?

Remove the requirement for evidence of living in the acquired gender. My word should be sufficient. Giving evidence to the committee, explain what difficulty you had getting the necessary documents. I sent off wage slips. Not everyone has them.

Does the Scottish Government’s proposed Bill offer a more suitable alternative to reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004?

Yes. I wrote about the draft bill. It is better in that it removes the requirement for evidence of living in the acquired gender, and the need for a diagnosis, but the waiting time is unnecessary.

Wider issues concerning transgender equality and current legislation:

Why is the number of people applying for GRCs so low compared to the number of people identifying as transgender?

Expense, delay, and the ability to get passport and driving licence without a GRC. I have not shown my GRC to anybody. It did not change my rights, my self-perception or others’ understanding of me in any way. If you do not have a GRC, say why not.

Are there challenges in the way the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010 interact? For example, in terms of the different language and terminology used across both pieces of legislation.

Getting a GRC does not affect trans women’s rights to be in women’s spaces. The relevant provisions are in schedule 3 of the Equality Act. Paragraphs 26-27 allow services to be for one sex, and paragraph 28 allows trans women to be excluded from women’s services. Lawyers can interpret the provisions. For evidence, write of any time you have been excluded, or felt uncomfortable or unwelcome. For example, I have been stared at in the changing room of swimming pools, and felt uncomfortable, though I have a right to be there. Quakers have been divided.

Are the provisions in the Equality Act for the provision of single-sex and separate-sex spaces and facilities in some circumstances clear and useable for service providers and service users? If not, is reform or further guidance needed?

The thought of complaining or raising court action about exclusion terrifies me. Evidence would be useful if you have been excluded, or have complained.

Does the Equality Act adequately protect trans people? If not, what reforms, if any, are needed

No. Remove the ability to exclude one or all trans women from women’s spaces. We can be excluded, just like any other women, if we behave in an unmanageable or objectionable way. Write of your experience of being excluded, or of being unwilling to access a service.

The Equality Act should ban discrimination on the ground of gender, not only of sex and “gender reassignment”. If there were a protected characteristic of gender, no-one could enforce gender stereotypes. That would please the TERFs, as well as trans people. For example, you could be required to dress to a certain standard at work, but not required to wear skirts.

What issues do trans people have in accessing support services, including health and social care services, domestic violence and sexual violence services?

Are legal reforms needed to better support the rights of gender-fluid and non-binary people? If so, how?

Give evidence of your experience.

Can you affect the committee report? The Women and Equalities Committee reported on trans rights, and recommended worthwhile reforms. I fear those six Tories want to roll back the recommendations. Trans groups will reply. I will too, for what it’s worth. But again, I will be required to tell my deepest anguish, and possibly have it published under my name, with little chance of any good coming of it. The government batted away the last WEC report. I have, nevertheless, sent in evidence.

 

Parliament supports trans rights

Liz Truss spoke to Parliament about her refusal, three years after the announcement, to reform gender recognition after all. MPs eviscerated her, though two other Tories spouted “feminist” anti-trans claptrap, using the same words as any other anti-trans campaigner. Here is the transcript: or view the debate.

Truss claimed there are “proper checks and balances”- the humiliations the consultation overwhelmingly opposed- and that it is “important that we protect single-sex spaces”. Note she does not use the term “women’s space”, having learned to avoid it from the haters. When she says “It is also important that under-18s are properly supported in line with their age and decision-making capabilities” she means she wants to restrict treatment for trans children. Even after three years she could give no date when her paltry improvements will come into force. The Tory transphobe MPs echoed her language: Felicity Buchan said retaining “single-sex spaces” in women’s refuges would “protect vulnerable women”, though many women’s refuges welcome trans women, and Jackie Doyle-Price asked her to “reconfirm her support for single-sex spaces”. Previously, Doyle-Price has voted against gay rights, against equal marriage, against retaining EU human rights, for repealing the Human Rights Act, and to repeal the EHRC’s duty to work for a society without unjust discrimination. Felicity Buchan normally tamely follows her whip, but has spoken out in hate of trans women. They are just the kind of allies trans-excluders would have.

Even other Tories supported trans rights. Crispin Blunt said the trade minister should not have the Equalities brief as well. He asked if Truss understood the “crushing disappointment” trans people felt at her announcement, made without good reason. He talks of trans-excluders’ fears, “void of evidence”. “Younger people in particular are more starkly intolerant of the cruelty of wider society’s inhumanity towards trans people. The vast, vast majority of lesbian, gay and bisexual people will stand in solidarity with trans people.” Shaun Bailey spoke of how trans people feel “locked out” of health care by waiting lists. Sara Britcliffe wanted “to find a way to make the path to self-determination not only cheaper but easier”. Nicola Richards spoke of trans people’s frustration with the “lack of substance” in Truss’s response. Elliot Colburn, who is gay, said “I stand by the trans community”, and asked “that we will make those changes that cost so little but mean so much to trans people”. David Mundell wondered if the new clinics were sufficient. Peter Gibson said the business community supported trans people- 200 company leaders wrote in support of trans rights. Christian Wakeford wanted more than the government promised.

Opposition MPs revealed the full hypocrisy and nastiness of the Tory government. Marsha de Cordova, shadow Secretary for Women and Equalities, said the delay was unacceptable, the debate was toxic, and the Government have let trans people down. She spoke of “the rise in transphobia and misogyny”- the two are linked. Labour will continue to support self-declaration.

Anne McLaughlin of the SNP said there was need for education to show trans rights do not encroach on others’ rights: “The Minister has failed on that front”. She pointed to the Scottish government’s better record on reform. She asked, does Truss “recognise the need to comply with international human rights law?” Truss said she did, just after making a statement indicating she doesn’t. Stuart McDonald for the SNP said Truss’s position was “a breach of human rights”.

James Murray, Labour, spoke of the consultation’s overwhelming support for trans rights, and asked, “Why have the Government taken so long to respond, only to ignore the wishes and destroy the hopes of so many in the trans community?” Truss said she was against self-ID. Lloyd Russell-Moyle said the World Health Organisation obliged us to remove trans as a medical classification, but Truss still wants doctors involved, claiming “the specific diagnosis is a matter for clinicians.” Would those clinicians be able to diagnose someone as gay, too?

Stephen Doughty, Labour, asked, “Does she understand the hurt to our fellow human beings, who are feeling deep distress and are deeply let down and deeply concerned about the direction in which this Government are going? And will she stop the off-the-record briefings to newspapers, whipping up hatred against the trans and non-binary community?” Truss denied personal responsibility for such briefings, and ignored the point about our distress.

Wera Hobhouse, LD, asked if Truss had met trans organisations, and Truss did not say she had. Cat Smith, Labour, said trans people were among her most vulnerable constituents, and Truss had let us down. Andrew Gwynne, Labour, said anti-trans hate crime had nearly trebled in five years.

Even Truss, while using policy to foment culture war and increase hate, spoke of making the gender recognition process “kinder”. The British people are mostly tolerant, and in favour of trans rights. Our hard-Right government is fomenting hate, with its allies in the trans-excluder movement and the press, but it has a hard job at the moment. Theresa May wanted self-declaration for trans people. It would have been the decent thing to do, and even Truss sees that at some level.

In the House of Lords, Ray Collins said other jurisdictions demedicalised trans recognition- what evidence is there from them that medicalising it is necessary? Transphobe Elizabeth Berridge could not answer. Elizabeth Barker called the government position “callous and cynical”. Michael Cashman called the government position “woefully inadequate…at a time when gross defamation and misrepresentation of trans people, particularly trans women, has been whipped up by the media and some Members of your Lordships’ House.” Again he asked for evidence of any abuse of gender recognition. Berridge had none.

Britain supports trans rights

Two years ago, the government consulted on trans rights, and the people supported us. 102,818 people responded, everyone who cared enough to respond, and an overwhelming majority spoke up for us, even though the haters campaigned hard to get haters to respond. LGB folk spoke up for us- 40,500 responses came through Stonewall. Feminists spoke up for us- 6810 responses came through Level Up, a feminist campaign group against domestic violence. 650 organisations responded, mostly for trans people and trans rights. The survey analysis says that as respondents were self-selecting, it cannot be said to be representative of public opinion, but I say it can: it is those who cared enough to respond, who have a strong opinion on the matter, and they can influence the others. And now, 26 September, 128,000 people have signed a petition for self-declaration. Continue reading

A law to vilify trans people

The British government has decided not to take away the humiliating and bureaucratic hurdles to gender recognition for trans people in England and Wales. Instead it has clung to a system which will be obsolete in two years. On 22 September, Liz Truss, the minister “for” women and equalities, made a formal written statement confirming this.

To get gender recognition, a person will still need: Continue reading

Frequently Asked Questions

“The Government believes that transgender adults should be free to live their lives as they wish, with dignity and free from discrimination.” It appears that the Government believes trans people are a useful hate-group, to divert attention from their disastrous mismanagement of Covid, Brexit and the economy. That’s what the Sunday Times article indicates. When the first sentence after “Thank you for your correspondence” bears no relation to the facts indicated by Government statements, I feel queasy unreality and my fear is heightened, not damped down. Some of the answers are slightly reassuring.

“We are currently dealing with an extremely high volume of enquiries about the Gender Recognition Act, the single-sex exemptions under the 2010 Equality Act and about healthcare for transgender people.” Well, that’s what happens when the minister makes a statement indicating she will trample on trans rights- trans people, allies and phobes start writing.

“Changes are intended to make the process of applying for a gender recognition certificate (GRC) less bureaucratic.” The Scottish government proposed granting one on affirming a statutory declaration before a solicitor or JP. That would be considerably less bureaucratic. Not having to provide evidence of using your real name for two years would be a start. Not having to provide medical evidence would be an indication that the government realised no-one does this on a whim, and no-one would do it to attack women. They want to ensure applying is still “a serious and meaningful undertaking”- well, the Scottish proposals achieve that.

Is the Sunday Times correct? They’re not telling. “We intend to publish our response to the consultation before Summer Recess, which begins on 21 July 2020.”

On the Equality Act 2010, they write, “Exceptions in the Act also allow for the exclusion of transgender people from single-sex facilities where this is necessary and proportionate… We are looking into how we might provide greater clarity in this area as part of Government’s response to the Gender Recognition Act consultation.” “Greater clarity” might mean that excluders felt more able to exclude trans women.

This Government is committed to improving services for those undergoing gender reassignment and to challenging transphobia in the NHS. NHS England have funded the development of specialised training through the Royal College of Physicians’ accredited credential on trans health.

There are not enough specialist psychiatrists, so the waiting lists are huge and growing. They say the NHS is working to make trans care more local, and “establishing a more modern and flexible care model”.

What did Truss mean when she said, “I think it’s very important that while people are still developing their decision-making capabilities that we protect them from making those irreversible decisions”? The FAQ is placatory. “We are clear that protecting young people is about ensuring the appropriate processes are in place, rather than withholding support, and we will be exploring what this means with the Department for Health and Social care who lead in this area. We are absolutely committed to making sure all young people have access to appropriate and timely psychological and medical support. The wellbeing of all young people is our priority.” Truss in her statement gave credence to the paranoid myth that young people need “protected” from doctors. She should make a public statement if she does not believe that myth, not rely on this FAQ.

“We know that transgender young people are more likely to experience poor mental health than people who are not transgender. The wellbeing of all young people is our primary concern. We are taking action to improve mental healthcare for LGBT people and we are working with DHSC to develop plans for reducing suicides amongst the LGBT population.” One quick and simple way would be to stop “Government sources” and ministers from making statements indicating a crackdown on trans women in women’s spaces.

“Will the Minister for Women and Equalities speak to both transgender health experts and children’s rights experts before making any decisions around access to healthcare? Yes…” Well, that is the minimum required by administrative law- decisions must be based on adequate knowledge and consideration of relevant facts. That does not mean that Truss will not consult her own prejudices and the benefits to an incompetent right-wing government of establishing out-groups to hate. “Clinicians should continue to provide support to people accessing Gender Identity Clinics [for adults] and the Gender Identity Development Service [for under 18s] in the same way as they have done till now – based on clinical need.” That they have to state doctors will continue to provide treatment indicates how toxic the government’s shit-stirring has been.

The FAQ does not reassure me at all.

A “nuanced debate”

What possible answer is there to “Do you condemn death threats?” but “Yes”?

Keir Starmer’s spokesperson was asked about JK Rowling’s screed on trans, and replied,

“This is a nuanced debate, a very important debate, and what Keir wants to do is work closely with all sides of this debate in scrutinising the government proposals and ensuring that we remain committed to trans rights.”

Did Sir Keir stand by the last Labour manifesto on trans recognition? “Keir stood on that manifesto and Keir has a proud history of supporting advances in human rights across a variety of areas.” He need not say, to most of his audience, that the manifesto of a party that lost is as valuable as a month-old newspaper.

Did anyone send death threats? It is loathsome if they did, but even if they were trans, I am not responsible for them any more than I am responsible for Bad Things done by my fellow left-handers.

This led to wailing and gnashing of teeth on trans facebook. “I will never vote Labour again,” wrote someone who perhaps prefers Tories. What part of “ensuring that we remain committed to trans rights” does she not understand? “Nuanced debate” allows Sir Keir to dismiss out of hand the anti-trans rantings, while denying he is doing so.

The Times, a paper which can only be trusted to Murdochian levels of truthfulness, screamed “Labour Stands Back From Gender Debate”. “Measures designed to prevent people with male anatomy using female lavatories and domestic violence refuges have also been included in a package drawn up by Liz Truss, the equalities minister.” Well, honestly. Do they expect me to carry confirmation of surgery about my person? Who would be entitled to inspect it?

Labour Shadow Ministers spoke up. The Shadow Home Secretary said, “we need to listen very carefully going forward in what is an extremely sensitive area”. The Shadow Justice Secretary said, “I’m not sure the government just scrapping plans and then leaking it out in a newspaper is the way to deal with this, you need a much better way that’s sensitive, that seeks consensus and respects everybody’s rights.” So the Times reports TV interviews. These are not positive commitments to trans rights, but there have been such commitments before.

It is beneath the dignity of the Leader of the Opposition to comment on the calculated nastiness of “A Government Source”, however prominent its platform. When a minister makes a statement, the shadow minister should make the appropriate response, which I am hopeful will be to oppose, on the side of trans recognition, with a truthful account of the actual position rather than fearmongering about claimed threats to women’s spaces.

Meanwhile, “a nuanced debate” is a meaningless phrase, saying “ask me later”. Nuanced means you can’t pin him down to one “side”.

The statement by A Government Source is froth. Johnson wants to distract from his complete failure on covid deaths, on care homes, schools, lockdown, reopening, everything. An actual statement on trans rights would be useful, but I could think of little else before Liz Truss, the responsible minister, appeared in the House of Commons yesterday, and she said nothing.

I may cut down my news consumption. Much of what Mr Trump does is distraction, and reading the breathless coverage, even the magisterial disdain of Michelle Goldberg, just gets me wound up to no purpose. Instead I have read one book, “Surviving Autocracy” by Masha Gessen, and even considered reading John Bolton’s when it comes out, though he is a monster, who joined Trump’s regime because he thought he could use it to bomb Iran. But day to day Trump coverage is no more valuable than any other reality show. There is of course Gerry Adams’ response to “Do you condemn,” but he was in specific circumstances which do not apply now.

Both the Trump and the Johnson governments are doing real harm to people, but that’s all the more reason to keep my head clear.

PM scraps plan to make gender change easier?

The Sunday Times has a front page article headed “PM Scraps plan to make gender change easier”. The article contradicts the headline- it will be easier, just not as much easier as hoped. The article says nothing new, in the most obnoxious way.

The Sunday Times claims to have received leaks about gender recognition in England and Wales. It claims that gender recognition reform has been “scrapped”, or “ditched”. “New protections will be offered to safeguard female-only spaces, including refuges and public lavatories, to stop them being used by those with male anatomy.” The Government Equalities Office has previously said they intend to publish the response before 21 July when Parliament is closed.

“A source”, possibly Dominic Cummings himself, is quoted. “In terms of changing what is on your birth certificate, you will still have to have proper medical approval. And you’re not going to be able to march in and find a hippie quack doctor who is willing to say you’re a woman. That’s not going to happen. The original draft was not what people had in mind so it has been rewritten. There will be big moves on safe spaces and women-only toilets.”

According to the ST, “More than 100,000 responses were received to the consultation. Insiders say about 70% of those backed the idea that anyone should be able to declare that they are a woman or a man. However, officials believe the results were skewed by an avalanche of responses generated by trans rights groups”.

Well, considering the desperation with which anti-trans campaigners begged people to respond, I would say people who cared about the issue one way or the other responded, and (oddly enough) people who didn’t care enough to respond didn’t respond. The Scottish consultation had an overwhelming response in favour of self-declaration.

“Quack” doctors. Well, giving a false assessment would be unethical for a doctor, who might be disciplined. And now there is an official list of specialist psychiatrists: you cannot get a GRC without a letter from someone on that list.

The Times says local authorities are providing gender neutral toilets, but central government guidelines will prevent that.

It says “Safeguards will be put in place to protect ‘safe spaces’ for women, reaffirming provisions in the Equalities (sic) Act…. polls suggest voters are sympathetic to trans rights but do not support transgender women with male anatomy accessing female-only facilities such as prisons and changing rooms.”

Well. At present, the Equality Act has a two stage process. First, spaces can be women only. Then, they can exclude trans women as well as all men if that “is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. It does not say anything about anatomy, and demanding that we have surgery would infringe our human rights- and demanding to check if we had would infringe our right to privacy. Stopping assaults on women, for example, would be a “legitimate aim”, but excluding trans women would not be a “proportionate means” to achieve that, or any means at all.

As the ST says, this “will fuel the culture war gripping Britain”. That will please Rupert Murdoch and BoJo Johnson.

Liz Truss has already said women’s spaces will be protected. I don’t think The Sunday Times front page splash adds anything. I wrote to my MP, who has a junior position in the government, on 19 May. On 5 June he replied that he would not see me, but that if I wrote to him with my concerns he would put them to the relevant ministers. I wrote back, twice, requesting to see him but have had no reply. The second time, I wrote, “I appreciate that, as Burke said, you give your judgment, not just your voice; I appreciate collective responsibility; but if you think I, or someone indistinguishable from me, is a danger to other women I want to look you in the eye as I hear it from you.”

After the ST leak, we know nothing more than before. The Government Equalities Offices has a list of faqs for correspondence about gender recognition and single sex spaces. It says the gender recognition process will be less bureaucratic but “remain a serious and meaningful undertaking”. So there will be some loosening, just not all we might want. It says Liz Truss’s comments on single sex spaces “were intended to reiterate the importance of maintaining single-sex spaces, as provided for in the Equality Act. If any changes were to be made to the Act – as with all legislation – they would go through the appropriate processes of engagement.” The Equality and Human Rights Commission was asked to produce new guidance, which might make it easier for women’s services to exclude trans women: now there is uncertainty, and they might not want to risk court action. However some women’s services exclude all trans women with impunity.

Liz Truss and Anna Akhmatova

The world is changed utterly, since December, but one thing that continues is conservatives seeking out vulnerable minorities to hate, so as to spread division. Trans people, especially trans women and children, have been targeted by Liz Truss, “Minister for” (actually against) “Women and Equalities”. I will write to my MP.

Truss says she wants “Protection of single sex spaces”. She is lying. Gender Recognition has no effect on single sex spaces, which are governed by the Equality Act.

She wants us “Free to live our lives as we wish”- as long as we behave in increasingly constrained acceptable ways, restricted for the good of others. “Checks and balances,” she says. Oh, totally reasonable rules for the good of everyone. Ha.

And she says she wants to “protect” children and young people. Truss claims she is better qualified than specialist gender psychiatrists and endocrinologists to determine what is good for under 18s, and that is to make sure none of them have treatment to aid transition. She produces the Tory bugbear, the ordinary child hoodwinked by trans ideology rushing heedless into “irreversible decisions” to prevent trans children getting the care they need.

Meanwhile I went out for my daily exercise, and also wanted to take some photos of the eerie silent world we are now in. This out of town shopping centre would have been hoaching, but for covid 19.



And it was odd to see a Police Community Support Officer walking along this unmetalled road. We are allowed to be there for exercise, and I want to be there for time in nature, too, time with the birds and the lakes, to preserve my mental health. It is a lone young woman, I don’t think she’ll be arresting anyone, but she might be seeing if there were breaches of rules for a more heavy handed presence later. I saw her twice, both times studying a phone.

I am frightened, by a conservative government which handles the crisis badly, with more people dying of slow suffocation here than elsewhere in Europe, and with the deaths not accurately counted, but which still finds time to promote hate- quietly, subtly at first, with this new target. I am fearful for my vulnerable friends. And the world is beautiful. Never has the contrast been so sharp for me: it is always there, but it is so much stronger now.

Fear and loss.
Wonder and beauty.
Death and God.

Anna Akhmatova puts it beautifully:

Everything is plundered, betrayed, sold,
Death’s great black wing scrapes the air,
Misery gnaws to the bone.
Why then do we not despair?

By day, from the surrounding woods,
cherries blow summer into town;
at night the deep transparent skies
glitter with new galaxies.

And the miraculous comes so close
to the ruined, dirty houses
something not known to any one at all,
but wild in our breast for centuries.

I am afraid. I read a piece in the New York Times about how covid suffocates people so they don’t realise it, and immediately ordered an oxymeter. It is predicted to arrive in June. There is a small risk of my dying in the most hideous way, and a much greater risk for all the people I know who are over 70 or with certain conditions. Liz Truss chooses this moment to announce her campaign against trans people. Trans children must not be treated, as a political decision. Single sex spaces- No Transwomen!- must be maintained or extended. This is couched in terms of “protection”- protecting vulnerable women and children from the Trans Threat. I am more afraid than ever, and today the sunshine is beautiful.

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I wrote that, and then thought, possibly I should give the minister the benefit of the doubt, until I hear more. In Scotland, the government offers a good reform, but still talks about single sex spaces. It is reassurance for the phobes rather than a serious threat to our rights. I am fearful and unknowing at the moment and it reduces my ability to trust. Then I remember she wants to stop treatment for children, and that is unequivocal. She trusts Daily Mail editorials over doctors. She trusts herself over specialist psychiatrists.