Elizabeth Berridge

Another day, another transphobe, a nonentity saying what she is paid to say- but this one could be dangerous. The Mail on Sunday reported in its print edition, though not on line, that she had said in the House of Lords,

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

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

This was in answer to a question by Ralph Palmer, a noted transphobe. He asked, “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Equality and Human Rights Commission about amendments to its guidance on the Equality Act 2010 to help providers of services understand how to handle requests for access to services and facilities from transgender people.”

How to handle requests? Grant them. If there is a clear reason not to serve trans women with non-trans women- not just someone finds trans icky, but a clear, statable reason- explain it, and find another way to support the woman. Instead, Berridge quoted myths from WPUK, and “considering carefully our next steps” means “We are going to find the best way to make trans people, and particularly trans women, a culture war target”.

The Mail apparently asked her for further comment, and summarised her response- the law is clear that such places [single sex spaces] should be for biological women only. When they quoted her directly, it was more circumspect: ‘Transgender people can be excluded from singlesex facilities if service providers have a legitimate reason for doing so and if exclusion is the least discriminatory way to proceed.’ That is mostly unobjectionable, though I would put it the other way round- trans women should be admitted unless there is a legitimate reason to exclude.

Berridge is the kind of nonentity to be appointed a Tory “working peer”. She was Executive Director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship: I found this page asking for “prayers” about the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, now deleted from their own site: Berridge would like to call gay men “Sodomites” but is too frightened to. So, meanly, she attacks trans people instead.

In February, she was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System at the Department for Education and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Women) at the Department for International Trade. These posts are so junior within government that no-one bothered to update her wikipedia entry for weeks after. But she is a person, with a name, unlike the “unnamed source” which was reported in the Times in February, saying While we believe adults should be able to live their lives, and trans rights should be respected and protected, the government also has a role to play in protecting children (nudge nudge, wink wink)- protecting children, they mean, from medical treatment facilitating transition. The Times began, Ministers are expected to drop plans to make it easier for people to change their gender amid concerns about the impact on children, but the sources they named were neutral or supportive of trans rights.

The hate progresses very slowly, but it is progressing. The haters are more willing to speak out. I would say that the “LGB Alliance” should note who its allies are, but I don’t think they care.

A microaggression

You’re not Jewish, are you?

She might get buried in the Jewish part of the cemetery, she said, surprising him, and this was his response. Yes, she said. I found his question impertinent, telling us something about him: I found it a microaggression, and write this to get clear why it is objectionable, and shows an objectionable way of thinking. I don’t know if it affected her in any particular way- she sounds a lovely person, knowing herself and comfortable with the self she knows, but it might.

What does it tell us about him? That he has a concept of “normal”, and Jewish is not included. Jewish is other. Learning she is Jewish, he adds this to his knowledge of her, and now ideas about “Jews” may add to ideas about “writers”, or anything else he knows about her, to form a judgment.

And what he said was, “You’re not Jewish, aya?” I noticed the abbreviation, and thought, “Manchester”. My colleague used to say, “Aya, awaya?”- “Hiya, how are you?”- on greeting. “Manchester,” I thought, having not heard the programme from the beginning, or Manchester in other voices.

Manchester, I think. A particular kind of one of us. Totally acceptable. “Jewish,” he thinks, and possibly files it away, a fact to remember about her, and- I assumed that makes him think not quite one of us. Different. And I am not certain he did- a particular kind of one of us, or someone different? There are Jewish populations in Greater Manchester.

Do I use “Manchester”- or even “Working class” (from his job, gravedigger)- to judge him? We know things about other people. Some might make us put them in stereotyped categories. I don’t know what he thinks “Jewish” adds to his knowledge of her.

I don’t know how she feels about it. She included it in her half hour radio programme. It could be she feels it as a microaggression, feels that he might have some slight hostility (Oh, not to you! You’re one of the good ones!) feels distance created, feels apprehension that distance means threat, that not being quite one of us means not being safe.

-Oh, don’t be so sensitive!
-People get killed for being Jewish!

-Does she look Jewish?
Judge for yourself!

I don’t know. “You don’t look lesbian”, a Quaker said to my friend. While Quaker women might be more likely to have short hair and no makeup, and to dress “plainly”- not all of us, but many- I found myself wondering what he thought “lesbian” looked like. She wrote after, “It was only after I got home that I began to think about this comment”. And the first response was sympathy. Yes, it’s awful.

I wondered if any Jew might object to me- I am not Jewish- picking on this example. They might object to the idea of “looking Jewish”- except by particular clothes- but it’s a question people ask, as if they really want to be able to see who the outsiders are.

It seems to me that very subtly this commenting on the difference is policing the boundaries of Normal-Acceptable. Jewish, or lesbian, is remarkable, odd, other. Possibly if you want to fit in you should not mention it, allude to it or give away signs of it. I tend to feel I “look trans”, that few people would think I was a cis woman after half an hour’s conversation, possibly not even after a minute’s. If I imagine that will not set them against me, or not appreciably, perhaps I am a fool. I started a comment, “When I was presenting male,” and someone responded, “Serious question, why is what you were presenting as relevant?” Because I was writing about interacting as male. But also because it is entirely acceptable, a quirk or not even that. I felt the question implied I should not mention it. I don’t really mind what they do, as long as they don’t rub our noses in it.

A painting by Simeon Solomon, whom I first noticed in the Tate exhibition in 2017. Is there some derivativeness and dullness about his painting, so that he is not now in the first rank of well known Pre-Raphaelites? Or is it because he was Queer and Jewish? Are his sentiments slightly off, not quite people like us? Wikipedia said He achieved notoriety after he was caught engaging in sexual activity with a man. I objected to “caught”, “achieved notoriety”, so have changed it. On the talk page, people ask why it is relevant that he was gay, . Well, what do you think?

Here’s another. A woman wondered why people referred to her as “The woman with the French passport” rather than “The French woman”. I checked my concept of French woman (or Frenchwoman). Effortless style, perfume “where a woman expects to be kissed”- white, of course, because European. Yeah. It is a racist stereotype, and she’s called that because she is Black.

Vote Labour for a better life

My best guess for what a social conservative gains from voting for Right-wing parties is that they feel they are part of a more cohesive society. So Boris Johnson or Donald Trump say that immigrants are bad, we’ll stop them coming and make a hostile environment for those who are here, and they feel part of something greater than themselves, a society which thinks like they do.

Few people who voted for Brexit will gain from it. Mr Mogg will increase his hedge fund, but others only gain a symbol. We voted for it so it’s undemocratic to oppose it, they say. Or they say you should work and support yourself and stand on your own two feet, having lost hope that they could get benefits and clinging to the illusion that they can have a decent life.

The Right gives symbols instead of reality. It never happens that you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. But the Right is spreading the same myth in Britain because Labour wants to decriminalise abortion. And people who imagine they are good Christians vote to protect innocent babies from a non-existent threat, and incidentally for tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the poor.

The campaign against trans women is a perfect symbol in this way. The Right can get feminists worked up and get feminist campaigning energy diverted from goals that will improve women’s lives, such as equal pay, or even more women on public company boards of directors, and against innocent trans women. Men may pretend to be women to get into women’s private space! say the fearmongers.

Before radicalisation a woman might see me in a loo, think, oh, a trans woman, and forget me in a couple of hours. After radicalisation she sees me as a man, wants me expelled, and is affronted that her rights are “erased” by “redefining what it means to be a woman”. So queers are more uncomfortable, people who hate queers are encouraged, and feminists are suddenly working for the Right rather than the Left, however hard they deny it. Being gender variant is difficult, and it should be supported I any way people have of expressing it, as the Left traditionally has. The Right wants to decrease gender variant behaviour, harming feminism, and increasing that social conservative feeling of being part of a regulated, homogeneous society.

The Tories or Republicans will give nothing to anyone but the ultra wealthy. They promise illusions, and even the feelings of self righteous anger they arouse harm their supporters.

Look at Labour’s record in government, of children’s centres and social care, of economic good management.

Labour will attack the growth of inequality which makes everyone more stressed with fair taxation and decent public services. Labour’s record on economic growth and reducing debt is better than the Tories’. Everyone should vote Labour for a better life.

Homophobic transition

Does anyone transition male to female because of homophobia? Yes. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini made a fatwa that transition was ok and God accepted trans women, but in his understanding of Shi’ism gay men were executed. So some there have vaginoplasties so they will not be murdered by the State. Does it happen anywhere else? Do lesbians transition from lesbophobia?

Possibly in some isolated cases. The child J may have been transitioned by their mother. But a judge passed them to their father, and they appeared happy presenting male. The mother failed. Did she do it because he seemed gay to her? Who could say. You may know your orientation long before puberty.

But Christians would not prefer transition to same sex attraction. The pope, apparently cautiously liberalising to gay men in some limited circumstances is utterly opposed to transition, which he calls as bad as mass murder: “Let’s think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings. Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation.”

I searched for “Christian view transgender” and the first result was the Christian Institute, whose critique of “transgender ideology” was creepily close to terf screeds. There is the same feigned concern for us: instead of providing transgender people with the support they need to help them embrace the bodies they were born with, society is compounding their confusion, with damaging consequences.

The Evangelical Alliance is less overtly nasty than they were in 2000 when I was transitioning. Their introduction talks of “nuance” and how all people “need to be loved”. But the hate does not take long to appear. Gender reassignment is self harm, contrasted with “finding your identity in Christ”, illustrated by the story of Tim, the son of a trans woman. Tim discovered that his Mum had known for 34 years that his Dad had been cross-dressing. They had been supported
by social and medical services for 19 years for mental health issues and trying, in their words, to find a cure. As Tim processed everything he felt angry – that the family had
been let down, not only by their Dad, but also by the support services who had never engaged with those who would be massively impacted by the decision.

Third in that search was “Focus on the Family”.

There are accepting individual congregations, but there is hostility throughout the church. No Christian accepts trans without also accepting gay.

What about secular views, or modern political liberalism? The allegation would have to be that people are more homophobic than transphobic. Homophobia is rife. So parents or teachers see a boy who does not fit cliche masculinity, and are so repulsed by the idea that he could grow up to be gay that they transition him instead.

Does that seem likely? No one would admit to it. So anyone supporting transition could be called homophobic, if the mere fact of supporting transition is enough to prove that to you.

Or look at the testimony of reverters. Sam Kane, when they first reverted, made a complaint against their psychiatrist. They were not transsexual they said. It had been a nervous breakdown. People revert for social pressure. Charles had lost male privilege, and found that unbearable. They are currently presenting male, having gone M-F-M-F-M.

Julia Grant, subject of a BBC documentary in the 1970s, told an MCC pastor “I’m a gay man trapped in a woman’s body”. She regretted surgery and hormones.

Transition is difficult. We still have dysphoria from the bare toleration and sometimes open hostility of others. After reverting, people can be angry.

Allegations about detransition are one of the principle weapons of those seeking to delegitimise trans people. There is a great deal of hostility. Stonewall, the campaigning gay rights organisation, is a trans ally. All figures will be disputed, but they cite research showing less than 1% of patients who accessed NHS support went on to detransition. Patients who never transitioned but just questioned their gender identity don’t “detransition”. Some people for whom transition would be wrong consider it.

When I transitioned I knew there was a possibility I would revert later, but knew the only way I could find that was to transition now. I desired it so intensely that if I didn’t I would be stuck. The hostility of society held me back longer than was good for me.

Other sites say some people detransition therefore trans is wrong. All sites are biased, pushing one view or another. Some people may transition then find it is not right for them, but that does not mean it is wrong for everyone.

We don’t know. All that is certain is that the argument that people transition for homophobia is transphobic as it seeks to delegitimise AFAB transitioners attracted to women, and AMAB transitioners attracted to men. Just possibly some may, but it means arguing that homophobia is generally stronger and more widespread than transphobia, which is simply not true.

Misogynist transition, the allegation that teenage “girls” transition because of harmful gender stereotypes, is an entirely different argument.

I read of a Tory threat to rename the Government Equalities Office the Ministry for Freedom. The only freedom it would defend would be the freedom to hate.

Toughening up

When he was a child, his father used to drive out from Denver into the Arapaho National Forest, to camp and hike with him. He was ten when he first walked 25 miles in one day. I could not match that, growing up in Argyll. I walked up to the trig point now and then, I cycled to Tarbert by Kilberry and back by Loch Fyne, but nothing like this. Once, they were out camping in snow, and afterwards a park ranger told them other hikers had said they feared for him.

The sympathetic response would be to ask what he thought. Instead I rolled my eyes, and said, “What would they know?”

He’s told me about these outdoor exploits before, and I realise I have no idea how he felt about them. In comes the self-criticism: you don’t see other people at all! You don’t care about their feelings! That isn’t true, though. Hmm. Well, how do you get from Denver, Colorado, US, to being a CPN in Swanston? Was he running away from his family? He has told me about going back to see them. Some of the conversations can be a bit difficult. They were so delighted when he got together with a woman, but now he’s with a man again, no longer that Bi passing as Straight thing.

This sweet, gentle man…

It is not just me not seeing others, or imagining they think exactly as I do. I pause to think about this. My own family placed a high value on self-improvement and on practical outdoors pursuits. Dad and I walked together over the hills. We fantasised rather than planned going up Suilven as he had done when at University, but we went through Glen Affric. I so wanted to make a man of myself.

Even though I know my concept of manliness did not fit me, and harmed me a lot; even though I have read others’ experiences, of fathers trying to stop their sons being “sissies”, though I know self-acceptance is essential for health, and others’ goals can cripple people; it still feels so utterly natural to me. What would they know, I wondered. Had he been Scots, I might have suggested that these carpers, or decent people seeking to protect him, were English.

Toughening the child up is just so normal, even for me, even now. So is family loyalty: I might criticise mine, but would defend them against anyone. Thinking about that is my answer to my self-criticism. Why don’t you see other people? Without thought, that question just leads to misery. Because I am thoughtless, stupid, only concerned with my own worries, obviously. It crushes me. With thought, I can forgive myself; and, considering what might be behind my unthinking response, I may be able to achieve change which the harsh self-criticism blocks.

Why am I so unfeeling to others? Because I am like that to myself. In my own mind I sometimes reach 49%, when the pass mark is fifty. I rolled my eyes, and have no recollection of his response to that. I did not get the impression that this had bothered him, but perhaps he was hiding that. Never cry! He might have opened up if I had sympathised, or he might have brushed it off (as I brushed off his consolations) but the topic of conversation changed.

Human beings are complex. A single word like “soft” cannot encapsulate us, but often is used to define us. With the Euro election and the Faragist hate campaign, I am depressed and I am talking depressingly. I want to encourage people and don’t.

-Why do you think you might not see people?
I demand too much of myself, so therefore I demand too much of others.
-It surprises me you are analysing this, intellectually, so much. Why is it all in your head?
Well, the heart is a muscle. The limbic system is in the head. And, my own emotional judgment of myself is so much on one note.

Oh my god
I just blanked him!
I was so unsympathetic
How shit is that?

I recognise I have mirror neurons, and I mirror people, for example picking up my glass at the same time as my companion does.

-You value your intellect so much, but your emotional intelligence does not always fire off so well. You have mastered, harnessed your intellect, you’ve played with it, you can ride it, you can get lost in it, you can dive into it.

-Your emotional self sometimes storms through thunderously. It is magnificent, quite spectacular and evidently as deep and prolific as your intellect. But you don’t harness it. It separates you from people, you know it does.

It is like the sea. If I try to stand erect on it, I will flounder dreadfully
but if I try to swim
that might work-

Other people’s anger

I don’t really like “gay panic” killings to be part of entertainment. Two TV dramas I have seen this month included a gay panic killing- one might even have been a trans panic, as the murder victim was female in Virtual reality but male in real life. Yes, I know they exist, and there was no sympathy for the murderer in either, but someone I could identify with was bludgeoned to death. Women complain about the number of women murdered in such dramas- it always begins with the death of a ‘girl’…

Why should a gay pass be such a provocation, anyway? Both dramas showed it raising uncomfortable echoes in the murderer. The organismic self, feeling attraction, comes up against the self-concept, furiously asserting “I’m not gay”. All the rage and terror that elicits is projected outwards, onto the nearest possible victim. If that gay man is disgusting, then the murderer can ignore his disgust for himself. And he makes his disgust and anger indisputable- surely he cannot be gay, when he feels so strongly.

Such cognitive dissonance, the conflict between who I am and who I ought to be, is painful. Turning the anger outwards may reduce the pain, but cannot address the problem. Neither can my instinctive method, which is to turn the anger inwards. I beat myself up for not living up to who I ought to be. Well, I am not that person, and so the anger only hurts me; but turning it inwards has the advantage, for me, that it does not manifest in conduct which others may find objectionable, until it means I have no motivation to do anything at all.

So now, having drained away my motivation and my self-respect, the anger still turns inwards. I beat myself up pointlessly. It’s other people’s anger, which I feel because I have taken it into myself from them: so as not to suffer it from others, perhaps. So as to fit in. It may be old anger, from my parents’ generation or even before, which no-one would feel now except me.

Who I am is who I ought to be.

The problem is changing my self-concept, so that it matches my organismic self.

The gay panic comes not just from the murderer’s homophobia, but from society’s. His self-concept would not be straight but for homophobic messages from the wider society, or from his upbringing, that straight is better than gay. Concepts of how people ought to be get in the way of anyone seeing who they really are, even the people themselves.

I hope my explaining who I am, here, may help anyone who shares my characteristics. If it brings out a strong emotional reaction- even one of revulsion- it has something to tell you.

The anger is merely destructive. Not all anger is- we get angry against injustice, and that may give energy to end it- but this anger either turns on an other who has innocently drawn the angry man’s attention to a characteristic he must deny, or on the angry person themself. His anger at the other does not change his organismic self, only allows him to deny its reality. It blocks him from seeing himself clearly, and prevents self-acceptance. My anger hurts me, and changes my perception of my real attributes from gifts to weakness.

Perhaps I could consider the anger. Why was I angry? What characteristic am I angry at? How could I see it differently? Self-acceptance is my work. How can I see something in myself, which is so frightening I use anger to prevent me seeing it?

Trans and homophobia

When I realised I was lonely and I wanted a relationship that’s what got me thinking well, I don’t want to be with a man, so the other option is to be with a woman. I thought I can’t be with a woman as I am because it just feels wrong. I saw a documentary on TV and I didn’t realise that women could transition into men so it was from that and realising how unhappy I’ve been all my life, that’s what I wanted to do.

Oh God, I thought, that’s just what gay people who want to drop the T from LGB say we are: it is internalised homophobia. I can only love a woman if I am a man. Being a lesbian “Just feels wrong”. I was bothered to hear this on Radio 4, Ovid in changing times. It also had an old interview with Jan Morris:

-Is it not the height of arrogance to assume that, having your penis taken off you can say “I am now a woman”?
-I have not said that. I am a person who felt self to be of feminine gender so adjust body to fit my inner feelings.

Later we hear her say, I was in a difficult situation, not certain of myself, I tried to be more one or the other. Now I know just what I am, I’m in the middle, really, I’m a bit of each. It’s a comfortable place to be.

We adjust what we say about ourselves, to fit what others will accept. I don’t know about “comfort”. Possibly rather she felt reconciled to the journey, she was not resenting or fighting it. Though I loved her for this:

-Are you ever able to stand up and see an element of absurdity?
-No. I think it is beautiful.

Of course I am absurd. We retain the concept of “normal”, even if we recognise that Diversity is a good thing, and I am certainly not that. I wanted something which many would call ridiculous, and I cannot justify except that I wanted it, because it was the way I could best express who I am. Emotion is absurd, and therefore people are absurd. But I resent on her behalf that allegation of a lack of insight- “Are you ever able”. What arrogance in the interviewer, to suppose that one could only transition if one didn’t understand.

I think I am beautiful.

But that line, being with a woman just felt wrong as he was. He talked of envying his male cousin’s anatomy in the bath, as a child, and how being a girl had been bad enough but puberty was awful; so there are two narratives here. It strikes me he is trying to justify his change, to create as many arguments as he can, and that is one. And gay people would say of course a woman can be with a woman. It is not “wrong”. I would agree- but this trans man said it was wrong for him.

If a gay person objected to trans on that ground, they are denying our existence, our ability to see our nature and make our choices. Phobic? Right back at you.

It does not help that his voice sounded female. Not everyone’s voice breaks properly on T. There is a trans man sound which some men have, a roughened alto, but his was completely female-sounding. The excerpt was without context, beyond that he was 39 at the time: I have no idea where he was on his transition journey.

Narrator: Not every change works out. We are always striving after what is forbidden, Ovid wrote, and coveting what is denied us.

Transphobia II

Transphobia is like anti-semitism: people deny it exists. Just as there is clear anti-semitism, like the blood libel, and justified opinions which are not, such as opposing house demolitions in the Occupied Territories, there is clear transphobia and questionable opinions which are disputed. Some would say even the opinion that trans women should not use women’s public toilets is not transphobic, and work hard to produce the appearance of rationality and concern for the vulnerable, arguing that. Perhaps trans folk would extend the definition too far.

Some people have a Yuck reaction to us. As with anti-semitism, many of them get self-righteous about it, like the woman who objects to the feminine presentation of trans women, claiming any feminist would find that presentation disempowers women, as if we had the power to be fashion leaders. How calm is that person, really? How far do they want to exclude us from ordinary life? What proportion of their writing concerns trans women, rather than other feminist concerns?

It seems to me that some people cannot imagine that yuck reaction, and I wonder how I can convince them. A man in the shopping mall who had never seen me before hissed “f–king nonce” as he passed me, and I wondered what I had done that he so hated me. A group of drunk young men on the train, and one shouts, “Oh look, it’s a tranny”, and they continue shouting until they get off. Fortunately my friend was in First Class, safely apart from them. Just possibly, that might be societal transphobia rather than individual, deliberate hatred; not all of them are repelled, but none stops the others from shouting and perhaps they would say, “But, it’s a tranny! Wouldn’t everyone shout at a tranny?” if asked why they were shouting. Just boisterous young men with normal animal spirits?

A shopper takes a second look at you, and exclaims, “It’s a man!” But she was just shocked and surprised, and vocalises a passing thought, as anyone might stare at someone a little out of the ordinary.

“F–king nonce,” though. Calling me a sex offender. No idea who I am beyond reading me as male, dressed female. That’s not a normal reaction to people like me, surely? Might you believe that it was phobic?

If someone I think of as a friend could imagine herself exclaiming “It’s a man,” the first time she had seen a trans woman in the street, could imagine herself feeling “Bless my soul” levels of shock, because, well, trans women really are out of the ordinary- even though perfectly acceptable-

could someone be my friend, chat happily with me, then say, “Well, you are a bit weird, really. You aren’t normal. I don’t hold it against you, I like you, really…”

but me being trans is if not the elephant then the sweaty runner’s shirt in the room, which we don’t see but which insinuates itself into everyone’s nostrils…

How widespread is the “I am perfectly accepting, but face it you are a bit weird” sort of attitude? Would they say, “Surely everyone’s like that, I would not shout abuse but I would notice, surely you can’t object to that?”

Am I too sensitive?

Transphobia exists. “F–king nonce” is an example of that. Yet friends don’t seem to realise.

A man. I hear he is now in prison: he did not attend the first sentencing hearing, threatening suicide, but did attend the second a day or two after I had the misfortune to meet him. He came to the Quaker meeting once and left after ten minutes, not liking the silence. Then he came a few weeks later just before we were about to finish, and we gave him a cup of coffee. He sat in the corner. We did not start a conversation with him, nor he with us, but I took him over the cup of coffee and offered him a biscuit which he declined.

People were leaving, and he made no sign of wanting to, so I told him we needed him to leave. He objected. I explained and he said, “I don’t know if you’re a man or a woman” and continued objecting, standing close to me, and waving his hand near my face. At this point people notice and come over to see what is going on. They see me in a confrontation with a man.

So after he has actually left, I explain what happened, and someone says, “Well, that’s your account of it.”

Honestly, what? It’s transphobia. Have you no memory, no gay friends, you never saw someone abused simply because he was gay? That man could only object to me if I had done something objectionable? The EEUghH reaction, the hatred, for Jews, black people, gays, Manchester United supporters- some people are prejudiced and react violently- you are aware it exists, right?

Can you not imagine that someone might be prejudiced against people like me, without any other reason? Do you sympathise with their shock or revulsion? So, you look at me, disbelievingly, without sympathy when I explain how horrible the situation had been, and how can I possibly get through to you?

giulio-aristide-sartorio-malaria

New year’s irresolution

I have my life just about perfect, just about how I would want it. How can I make it better in 2017?

Ways which I have imagined would improve it may not. An example: yesterday I went to Mind, the mental health charity. There we were doing a positive psychology craft task, with little difficulty and maximum gentle affirmation, and one of we service users said how sad she was at the change in meaning of the word “gay”. It used to mean joyous or colourful. It has been twisted.

I am quite clear that such a remark should be challenged. It is homophobic. An exact analogy is a racist remark, like, “I hate to walk down that street. It’s as if I am in a foreign country, I’m the only white person there and they’re all speaking foreign.” I understand the distress; yet that is saying to people- you should not be here. To the gay person- You should pretend to be straight. You should act normal. You should not be you.

I deflected. “Yes,” I said. “‘Gay’ now means mediocre or third rate, which is a horrible meaning.” I am pretty sure she meant she disliked ‘gay’ meaning ‘homosexual’. And- they did not challenge her, even though I was there, obviously queer, and the manager is gay, and he was there. The third sector should promote diversity and challenge homophobia, because I should not have to pretend to be someone else so that other people can be comfortable.

Perhaps they did not want to drive away a service user. Stats means Funding, which really matters. So, either she is more important to them than I am, or they think I can cope with homophobia better than she can cope with challenge. The manager was sitting beside me and his underlings fawned on him a bit and none of them said anything. He’s Gay! What were they thinking?

What bothers me in this incident is not that the woman’s homophobia frightens or hurts me, but that

That’s not supposed to happen!

I know the rules! I know how these mental health workers are supposed to respond in these situations, and they just didn’t! Everything’s going along just fine, and then out of the blue- something unexpected happens. And therefore unwelcome.

I might say, how can I improve my life? A little more variety, more human contact, is what I am supposed to want. So says the culture; most people would agree; it makes sense to me; yet when I go somewhere which should be supportive and non-threatening, where I know what to expect, something I did not expect happens!

 ♥♥♥

My life is just as I want it. I have control. A little more money would be nice. I would have the heating on more. But I am not cold, I wrap up in a sleeping bag. Pride, shame and amour propre might have a role here. I am a pig satisfied, and the alternative is not Socrates dissatisfied, but someone houseproud and concerned with appearances dissatisfied. I want to understand, and I continue using my analytical mind to consider whether homophobia should be challenged or what makes my life good.

I am houseproud only vestigially. Sometimes I act, because it seems possible I could make things better. I take pleasure, yesterday, in having bought a sink plunger and unblocked my bathroom basin, clogged with soap and used toothpaste, with it. The basin now drains quickly. It might stay clean longer after I clean it, so I may muster the motivation to clean it. I have been thinking about this for ages, resenting how it was blocked, and messing about with boiling water. Will a plunger not just shift a blockage further down the pipes, causing worse problems later?

I like analysis. I have spent a happy hour pacing the floor, agonising over all this, before starting to write. I am happy now, writing. I knew sink plungers unblock sinks, yet analysed and cogitated for weeks.

So I might say,

Taking action is the solution!

But what if something went wrong, or what I expected did not happen?

Or,

Letting go of control is the solution!

But why, if that can make me so unhappy?

 ♥♥♥

I have seen worse, in home visits, or in student flats- one had half full coffee cups, which after a week developed a mouldy scum- but those are the kind of home visits we use for stories. There were fish and chip wrappers left on the floor!

Ew!

My house is not that bad, but-

I have control! I feel some boredom and frustration, but little anger or fear. I have limited human contact, little motivation. If I tidy my house it will only get untidy again.

I am dissatisfied because I am thinking about it, and in that sense I am closer to Socrates than the pig- and Socrates had Diotima and slaves to do the housework.

Never mind how or why that homophobic incident upsets me, it does. It is an example of so much human interaction, from the rare to the quotidian, from my oral hearing before the Social Security Commissioner to those who-shall-give-way dances as we walk along the street. So- retreat! Avoid those interactions, and you avoid distress!

I will not go out because the culture tells me, or I imagine, that I ought to want to. You see! I did what I was supposed to want to do, and it was Awful! I met a homophobe! And yet, I am frustrated and bored. Something better may be possible.

Two more thoughts on pleasure and desire. I ate a plum just now. I gave it my attention, and it was beautiful; yet I do not want to be eating all the time. And, I had a vaginoplasty because it was what I wanted, more than anything else in the world. Now I regret it, thinking a penis might have its uses. Desire is not a reliable guide to satisfaction.

My life is as I have made it, and it is good, right now. It pleases me. And my mind is at work: could it please me better?

breslau-la-toilette

Coming out, as a father

He started talking almost before he got to the bus stop. He loves the heat. He works on a removal van, he’s got one job today then he’ll enjoy the sun. He hates the way people complain about the heat when they’ve been complaining about cold and rain the rest of the year. I agree. I like the heat, and this variation is fashionable among the English this year, who like to agree as well as talk about the weather. He is a sweet enthusiastic man, who says how lovely it is to go up through the Rec then the woods and down to S- Lakes. You don’t need to go away! I enthuse. Yes. The sun on the water, not a beach exactly but-

He goes there with his son. His son’s a really lovely boy. He’s not boasting, it’s not that he’s saying he is a brilliant parent or anything, but his son has a lovely personality. The bus comes and he starts the same spiel with another woman. He loves heat. He hates people complaining. He has a lovely son.

He’s got this bouffant thing going. That’s the fashion nowadays I suppose, says the father whose hair is short. She says she hasn’t seen him for years, would not recognise him now probably.

He’s-

I didn’t catch the next bit, but the boy is gay or bi. The father whispered, and if he did not want me to hear I am pleased that he did not read me but bothered that he would be ashamed. The boy said he looked at boys, and felt- The woman says you’re learning who you are, finding what you like, at that age.

“I tell him, ‘I’ve got your back’,” says the father, definitely. He repeats it.

I talk to learn what I think about things, to see how it feels to articulate particular opinions, and to find what others feel. He could be testing the waters, finding out whether others are homophobic, talking himself in to acceptance of a thing which disappoints or frightens him. “I’ve got your back” is how I would hope a father would be, and it should not need said unless the son is in trouble. There is such progress! And we still have a way to go.

Langrenee, Echo and Narcissus