Redvers Buller and nonbinary people

Who was General Sir Redvers Buller, VC, GCB, GCMG, and what relevance has he to nonbinary people? He is relevant to nonbinary people, I assure you.

Buller was a man of great physical courage. At the Battle of Hlobane in the Anglo-Zulu war, he rescued three other mounted infantry, a captain, a lieutenant and a trooper, carrying them to safety on his horse, one at a time, and winning the VC.

In command in the second Boer war, he lost the battles of Colenso, Magersfontein and Stormberg in one week, gaining the nickname “Reverse Buller” among his troops. Frederick Roberts took command, but as second in command Buller won the Battle of the Tugela Heights. Wikipedia tells us he was scapegoated for Boer guerrilla tactics, and sacked in October 1901. About 50,000 subscribers in and around Exeter paid for an equestrian statue of him, which the city council now considers removing.

I don’t think the Empire is something for British people to be proud of. It was economic exploitation of areas whose economies would have grown better outside it. Cotton grown in India was taken to Lancashire to be made into cloth, then sent back to India, rather than being processed locally. The statue should not be in a city centre. I had forgotten Redvers Buller, having read about him in “Farewell the Trumpets” by Jan Morris, credited as “James”. That’s the most definite reference to a trans or nonbinary person in this post. No, there is no clear evidence that Redvers was nonbinary.

That did not deter the Daily Mail, whose headline about the statue was, “Council is slammed for ‘ridiculous and historical wokery’ over plans to remove a statue of a British war hero – with official report claiming it ‘impacts anybody who does not define themselves in binary gender terms’.”

The Mail opposes the statue of a “war hero” being moved. Of course. That is disrespecting the Great British Empire, but The Mail also hates any mention of nonbinary people. It says, “An equality impact assessment carried out as part of the review also concluded the statue would impact anybody who ‘does not define themselves in binary gender terms’.”

The council’s papers are here. The Equality Impact Assessment does not mention nonbinary people, but rightly comments that moving the statue would have a positive impact on BAME people and immigrants. The report to the council says the statue “personif[ies] racism and the glorification of a colonial past”.

Is its prominence still relevant to the people of Exeter today? No. The Boer War was a nasty, inglorious conflict.

Possibly the quote was removed from the papers after the Mail reported. Its full quote, given in the article, is, “The General Buller statue represents the patriarchal structures of empire and colonialism which impact negatively on women and anyone who does not define themselves in binary gender terms. The consultation will need to ensure that the views of women, transgender and non-binary people are captured and given due weight”.

Mere use of the word “patriarchal” is enough to upset the Mail. However the quote indicates that the statue is not more relevant to trans and nonbinary people than to cis women. Nonbinary people are mentioned because, to be inclusive, any mention of patriarchy’s effect on women has to refer to trans and nonbinary people too. That is the only relevance of the report to nonbinary people. Any equality impact assessment, and lots of council reports, would refer to “women and nonbinary people”.

I agree. Patriarchy impacts on cis women and trans people. It also impacts on a lot of men. The Mail did not make any argument against this, merely quoting. “Wokery” was the word of conservative historian Andrew Roberts, who commented “In the year 1900 every man was a sexist”.

Buller’s biographer said, “This man was always a great supporter of and campaigner for the many native communities he came across.” That would appear contradicted by the battle of Kambula.

Redvers Buller: not apparently nonbinary.

Surviving Trump’s Autocracy

Here is a survey of Donald Trump’s vandalism of America over three and a half years. Daily outrages numb us, whether sending riot police with tear-gas to clear peaceful protesters so he can pose with a Bible, or using the Environmental Protection Agency to remove restrictions on pollution of air and water. The nonbinary journalist and activist Masha Gessen has written Surviving Autocracy, published today on Kindle and in July in hardback, based on their experience of Putin’s Russia and Trump’s America. There is analysis of how Trump gives both continuity and new direction to American governance, and how institutions have failed to prevent him. There are comprehensive notes of academic and journalistic sources.

They start with the Covid crisis, where America could have prepared, but the Presidency gave no leadership. Instead, it had utter disregard for human life and a monomaniacal focus on pleasing the leader, to make him appear unerring and all-powerful, like the Soviet government dealing with Chernobyl. They summarise Trump’s repertoire of speechifying: government by gesture; obfuscation and lying; self-praise; stoking fear and issuing threats.

Trumpian news has a way of being shocking without being surprising. Every one of the events of that week was, in itself, staggering: an assault on the senses and the mental faculties. Together, they were just more of the same. The news is unimaginable, but the reporting helped normalise it. We need better language. As Trump crushes the Republic’s political disagreement and judicial process, he attempts to introduce autocracy and a “Mafia state”, a specific, clan-like system in which one man distributes money and power to all other members. In Trump’s case, he mobilises his base, who find his posing with the Bible spiritually overwhelming, and distributes the power to those whose fawning meets his approval. Power amasses wealth, then wealth perpetuates power, like in Russia or Hungary.

Hitler’s jurisprude Carl Schmitt called the Reichstag Fire a “state of exception”, an emergency that shakes up the accepted order of things. Then the Leader institutes new, extralegal rules. After Trump’s election President Obama spoke in hope of “a presumption of good faith… a vibrant and functioning democracy”. Gessen lists catastrophes Putin has used to change the Russian system towards autocracy, and similar crises in US history such as Woodrow Wilson’s Sedition Act 1918, leading to the arrest of thousands. After 9/11, Robert Mueller led the FBI as an internal spy agency, targeting immigrants and political dissidents for surveillance and infiltration, even torture, or “enhanced interrogation”, and George Bush lied about Saddam’s weapons in order to start a war.

But there is no one sweeping, unequivocal gesture upon which we would all justifiably give up hope or, alternatively, become desperately heroic. Instead Trump’s actions change the nature of American government and politics step by step. He jettisons traditions, such as that the Justice Department functions independently, and assumes control of it. It is part of the Executive branch, so the institution is no protection against Trump, and the tradition can be brushed aside, like the tradition that Trump should not profit from the presidency: the foreign emoluments clause of the constitution has not resulted in impeachment. The Office of Government Ethics was sidelined, powerless against Trump’s bad faith. All his Cabinet profiteered, transparently.

I had thought “Drain the Swamp” was a claimed attack on corruption, but it was an attack on government itself. Trump continues to campaign as if the Deep State was still the Elite, ruining ordinary people’s lives, and attack the Government, with his cabinet picked to oppose their departments’ proper functioning. Labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder opposed labour rights. Betsy DeVos sought to privatise education. The nominees lied to congress, a criminal offence, like their patron did. They were lying to the swamp. Trump disdains government expertise and qualifications. He delayed appointing candidates to many jobs requiring Senate confirmation. He destroys regulations protecting the public. He sacked advisers and expert groups. Cabinet members argued for cuts in their departments funding.

Believe the autocrat. Trump broadcast his intentions in his campaign and inauguration. “For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost” was his summary of government achievement. He attacked whatever made it admirable, or showed it to be so: He had the White House website swept clean of substantive content on climate policy, civil rights, health care, and LGBT rights, took down the Spanish-language site, and added a biography of his wife that advertised her mail-order jewelry line.

He degrades and demeans. The cake for his inauguration ball was made of styrofoam, a direct copy of Obama’s. Gessen uses this as a symbol of the administration: much of what little it brought was plagiarized, and most of it was unusable for the purpose for which presidential administrations are usually intended. Not only did it not achieve excellence: it rejected the idea that excellence is desirable. This has caused 100,000 Covid deaths: action was held up by human error… by rules that had unintended consequences; by a reluctance to make decisions; and most of all, by a system’s essentially Trumpian inability to recognize its own failures.

The federal government created a system whereby states bid against one another and the federal government. Trump gave Jared Kushner broad authority to organize a private-sector response to the pandemic, working in parallel with or around the government effort.

Trump prevented useful government action. He only wanted spectacle, such as his daily briefings. He denied the complexity of climate agreements, arms control or the use of military force, and so showed his mediocre mind. He wanted to give simple orders like “Build the Wall”. He developed the previous government by oligarchy, where elections are decided by money. Access to voters is by advertising. Former elected officials work as lobbyists.

Trump praises autocrats, like Putin, Kim Jong-un, Duterte, Bolsonaro, and Mohammed bin Salman. His cabinet grovels: “Our kind Father in Heaven, we are so thankful for the opportunities and the freedom that you’ve granted us in this country. We thank you for a president and for cabinet members who are courageous, who are willing to face the winds of controversy in order to provide a better future for those who come behind us.” Trump demanded similar adulation from Democrats, calling them traitors for not applauding his speech.

Trump packs the courts, and has appointed a quarter of the judges in the courts of appeal. He attacks the dignity of democracy, both in the dignity of voters having a part in the process, which he seeks to suppress, and the dignity of political performance, with respectful language. Before his hearing, Brett Kavanaugh gave an interview on Fox news, as measured and apparently humble as Christine Blasey Ford was before the Senate. Then Trump called him, urged him to be forceful in his denials, and before the Senate he was emotional and offensive, shouting repeatedly that he liked beer, shouting that the Left was willing to do anything to derail his nomination. Kavanaugh’s audience was Trump the autocrat.

The emphasis on Russia worked as a conspiracy theory, ascribing too much power to Putin while Trump destroyed government in plain sight. The Mueller report did not save democracy: it gave the facts that Trump had obstructed justice, but not the conclusion. So William Barr brushed it away, and asserted alternative facts which Fox News and the Republican party echoed.

Photo from Wikimedia.

Robin Dembroff and the philosophy of nonbinary

After Robin Dembroff wrote “Macho leaders are a weakness”, I thought- Robin? Sometimes a woman’s name, normally a man’s. It’s a woman. So I went to Google Images to find out, and am abashed. They are nonbinary. Watch them argue that gender is socially constructed.

They argue gendered pronouns should be abolished. For everyone. We can still gender ourselves, but others should not gender us, so as to avoid misgendering anyone. Misgendering is an insult, but not gendering is not necessarily. Not gendering trans people, but gendering everyone else, is stigmatising. Binary trans women want to be called “she” because cis women are, but if cis women were called “they” trans women would not be stigmatised by being called “they”. It is different treatment that is offensive, not the use of “they”. And evidence suggests that degendering English would reduce gender discrimination and gender essentialism, they say, though any such evidence will be contested.

That led me to their open access paper on the subject, introducing me to the concept of unpronouning someone. You unpronoun a person by referring to them by circumlocution, perhaps by name or title, because you do not want to use their chosen pronouns. This is a microaggression, less objectionable than misgendering but still off. In that paper they define transgender as including genderqueer- “(sometimes) ones gender identity differs from the sex assigned at birth”. However if gendered pronouns were abolished no-one could be intentionally misgendered or unpronouned.

Degendering English would not get rid of gendered oppression, essentialist misogyny or the oppression of trans folks, but it would help. It would take away one way of denying someone’s gender identity. Misgendering would be impossible. Referring to me as “they” now may be a way of denying that I am female, calling me indeterminate instead, but if everyone was “they” it would not be a problem.

Misgendering, and refusing to use chosen They pronouns, is disrespectful. It denies our social identity. It denies trans women resources, such as access to women’s space, and threatens criticism or ostracism for dressing as a woman.

Misgendering reinforces the ideologies, concepts and norms disrespecting trans people.

People apply stereotypes to others in an effort to understand them. So individuals might want to have some choice over what stereotypes others apply. Misgendering takes away our choice: I want to be seen as a woman, and I epilated my legs this morning to conform to a feminine stereotype.

People often use they to refer to someone whose gender they don’t wish to divulge or don’t know: because singular “they” does not imply any particular gender. Using they for everyone would mean people could keep their gender identity private- for example, if they intend to transition but have not yet.

Dembroff cites studies showing that there is a correlation between grammatical gender and the prevalence of gender essentialist beliefs. The more gender-loaded a language is, the earlier children give themselves a gender category: this is linked to the development of gender stereotypes in children, and essentialised beliefs about how gender explains stereotypical group traits, or children’s use of gender categories on making inferences about others, or forming preferences based on endorsements by people of their own gender. This reinforces the stereotypes. Language affects how you see the world.

If you use gendered pronouns you imply that gender is relevant to what you are discussing. If you use “they” you imply it isn’t.

Why be nonbinary? Dembroff finds gender stereotypes suffocating, and nonbinary identity liberating. They have never fitted gender stereotypes, and always produced doubt in others of what gender they were- anger at them using women’s loos, doubt in an airport security attendant of the pink or blue button- but they are tired of gender. The boxes are stifling, and enforced with violence. Society imposes them based on perceptions of your sex.

Arguments about whether I am a woman are “metalinguistic negotiation”- arguing about what the word “woman” means, not about what is true in the world. Nonbinary people are not saying they don’t have genitals, but that their genitals should not stereotype them in ways they don’t want: they claim freedom to own or subvert any stereotyped gendered behaviour. Like Tiresias, “Old man with wrinkled dugs”, they can move between worlds which others find rigid. They need not be androgynous.

Nonbinary identity, they say, is political. It helps people understand ourselves shorn of stereotype and expectation. Nonbinary is anti-essentialist, enforced on no-one. “I am a person wearing people clothes.” That is different from choosing an androgynous presentation- you can present how you feel in the moment.

Patriarchy enforces social control over sexed bodies, favouring males who conform to dominant masculine norms. Nonbinary undermines that. Nonbinary questions the politics of patriarchy and the unthinking unquestioning assumption that patriarchy is just the natural way.

Dembroff accepts that some people identify as having a particular gender and want to stretch that gender, to be able to do what they like. Rather than insist that men and women can be and can do anything, I and other nonbinary persons question why we categorise people as women and men at all. There is no need for conflict between these two positions, though often there is.

I thought it would be a woman objecting to the toxic masculinity of such as Bolsonaro, Modi, Trump or Johnson dealing with the virus. I wanted to know. I am rebuked- and I am liberated- they are a person, holding person views. They are trans in the widest sense, like I am.

Am I non-binary?

Does trans include non-binary? Is there a difference? Can someone be enbyphobic, having an irrational reaction to non-binary people, without being transphobic?

Around 2010 we were writing trans*, as “Trans” meant transsexuals, perhaps, or transsexuals and cross-dressers, and Trans* was a more inclusive term. Then nobody knew what the distinction was, and people stopped writing “trans*”, as “trans” was inclusive. Everyone who chooses the identity is trans. Or some people try to police the idea of trans, to keep control of others, because they imagine it makes them safer even though behaving like that only increases the threat, and perception of threat, to everyone.

Someone might be clearly enbyphobic without being so clearly transphobic. Imagine a man who is happy enough to address an AMAB person by a female name, refer to her as “she”, but draws the line at calling them “they”. “They” is a pronoun for more than one person, they say. They will not refer to an NB person as “they” though they might use “they” for a person whose gender they don’t know. They seem to accept the trans person, but draw the line at the NB person.

If trans includes NB, then enbyphobia is transphobia. But it might be useful to distinguish the two. So why include NB in trans? To make a big tent, where everyone is welcome, and everyone feels solidarity. If we need to distinguish, we could refer to “binary trans”. Because there might be different interests. A non-binary person might need third spaces, non-gendered spaces, and a trans person object to third spaces seeing them as excluding him or her from their acquired gender space. I might use a third space, where I might be less likely to be challenged (I don’t get challenged, though lesbians do) but would hate anyone to choose a space for me. “No,” they would say. “Not here. Go there,” and I would be excluded, and devalued.

I would like NB identity if it could be seen as permission. “I am non-binary”, I declare, when I go about without a wig. Those who judge will see it as permission for them to judge and exclude me.

Non-binary is the generally accepted term, but I might criticise it. Why should I define myself by what I am not? There is no generally accepted alternative. Self-gendered perhaps. Gender-free. I am not sure what I would propose, and it’s not going to be more accepted than NB. Enby, then. Some say it sounds twee.

Some people don’t admit that NB can exist. Others say it is ridiculous. Behave in whatever gendered way you want, express whatever gender you have, but you are male or female. There is widespread reluctance to recognise non-binary identity. That’s enbyphobia, not transphobia. When I am told to explain what LGBT stands for, as if people won’t know, I wonder about asserting I am NB, and that could be my own enbyphobia. I am surrounded by transphobia and enbyphobia, which I take into myself. Some accept me as I am. Some won’t accept me however much I try to change myself to be acceptable.

So am I NB? There is no typical woman’s response to anything. My response is within the range of responses of womankind, and even generally within the range seen as acceptably feminine by those who enforce gender on women, though they must be resisted. I am not even sure that there is a group of people who are non-binary, definitely distinct from trans people by essence rather than label, or perhaps stage in a process, but many NB people are, and might call my attitude enbyphobic.

I like NB as permission. I can do this, and I don’t have to do that. I want to flit in between trans and non-binary, as it suits my interests, to evade anyone who would control me. If there were the possibility to be whoever you want to be, rather than the desire to control what is harmless, no identity would matter.

Seeing the psychologist

When a psychologist treats a trans person, can they avoid harm? Less than 30% of psychologists were familiar with trans issues, and there is no clue how many of us there are- between 0.00017 and 1.3%. It depends how you define us- the finding in Massachusetts that 0.5% of people identified as trans or gender non-conforming depends on how widely you define GNC, and how restrictively you define “normal” gender roles.

So the American Psychological Association drafted guidelines for working with us, and defined us as those who have a gender identity that is not fully aligned with their sex assigned at birth. The feminine trans man is clear about his sex, and happy with his femininity, but the guidelines conflate sex and gender. Gender role is the appearance, personality and behaviour associated with being a man or a woman in a particular culture, but there can be a feminine personality in a trans-male body, or a feminine AMAB male could be quite clear he is male. Gender identity is called a person’s deeply felt, inherent sense of being male, female or an alternative gender. This matters for trans people, but some cis people deny having a gender identity. Appearance, personality and behaviour do not always coincide.

A woman might dress down with no makeup, hair tied back, jeans and a t-shirt, but people will observe she is a woman from the visual clues. This is very important to most observers, who will then apply their stereotypical understanding of women to that person. Some women respond by joining a feminist group, some by transitioning, and might experience that as a choice, a drive, an innate characteristic, or a mistake. If there is a drive to transition, many respond by resisting, because of family pressure or beliefs.

The words and definitions the APA uses seem more designed to avoid offending trans people than to create a taxonomy of issues and responses. As a taxonomy is so difficult, that may be unavoidable.

Treat the patient as an individual.
Do not see a gender identity or desire to transition as pathological.
Transition may be non-binary
Assist with the mental health problems, including those arising from the stress of being trans.

There. Simple. The APA agrees: A person’s identification as TGNC can be healthy and self-affirming, and is not inherently pathological. However, people may experience distress associated with discordance between their gender identity and their body or sex assigned at birth, as well as societal stigma and discrimination.

They state there is greater recognition of non-binary identities, rather than a concept of transition to the opposite sex with emphasis on passing. Well, passing helps you appear to fit in, and that can reduce stress as well as providing scope for subverting the stereotypes. They insist that affirmative care must be non-binary, non-prescriptive, but unfortunately law and surgery has not caught up.

The psychologist, modelling acceptance of ambiguity, may be ahead of the patient who has internalised transphobia. That will help counter stigma and assist the patient to make informed choices. But, still, we dance between fitting in and being ourselves.

Out and proud in the Bronze Age

Non-binary people were honoured in the city of Hasanlu before it was destroyed in 800 BCE. The evidence is in burials and in art: not just a hole-in-corner existence, but recognition as a normal part of society, honoured by family and the wider culture.

We have no writing from there, but there are burials. Some skeletons can be identified as female or male from the pelvis, or possibly from the skull, but if these are incomplete it might not be possible. These people were buried with valuable items, whether as a sign of respect or for use in the afterlife, and the items fitted three genders.

Weapons, armour and metal vessels were associated with male skeletons. Jewellery, needles and pins for fastening garments were for women in this culture, but out of 51 burials analysed ten burials had masculine and feminine artifacts. A male skeleton had an arrowhead, which is for a man, and a garment pin, which in that culture is as feminine as you can get. I wore a kilt pin when I presented male, but that’s a different culture.

Another skeleton which cannot be sexed had a garment pin and a metal drinking cup. They performed masculine rituals in feminine clothes. All the burials show evidence of formal ritual to show the person’s identity and social status, masculine, feminine, or between. Of the ten skeletons, five were male, two female and three not identifiable, which might show that AMAB people had greater ability to express themselves as non-binary than AFAB people.

It also shows that men being feminine was not shameful, was not denied by the relatives, was part of the culture. That in turn shows that women were more equal in the culture, or things fitting for women would be shameful for men. Am I going too far? I understand the ancient culture with my own categories. I know that non-binary exists. It seems to fit these ancient skeletons and the ritual of their burial. My readers will also know that non-binary exists, and that it is not weird, or strange, or shameful; and so be happy to imagine that it was perfectly normal for these ancient people. Anyone who might deny that might be projecting their own social categories and sense of shame back three thousand years.

Pictures from the Hasanlu culture showed only women seated on the floor, generally, but the Hasanlu gold bowl has a person with a beard in women’s clothes, seated on the floor.

Details from Haaretz. Picture credit.

The gender critical trans woman

How can a trans woman be a radical feminist? Surely it is completely incompatible, to assert I am a woman, and that gender is a Patriarchal construct in the interests of men?

Humans reproduce sexually, and therefore there are sexual differences between males and females. It makes no sense to me that about 0.1-1% of the population is really the other sex, so must transition, with brains built to run on the opposite sex hormone, or whatever. If we are invested in transition, then when we start taking cross-sex hormones we are not able to assess their effects objectively, as they affirm our chosen course of action. Oestrogen may make hair removal easier. We will minimise negative effects, as we want this so much. The trans woman is not in any sense physically female, even after hormones and surgery.

I am caught by my rationality. This is simply the truth for me. And yet, I am a trans woman. I wanted to transition- I found it irresistible- and I did, and I have no wish to revert now. So there is what I think, and what I do, and they might seem inconsistent, but they enable me to understand the extreme variation in understandings of gender among those of us it fits least well. If I am a man, then I am proof that gender is cultural not genetic.

Some women call themselves gender-critical, because they find gender oppressive. They might admit to be gender non-conforming, but would possibly argue that was trite, as gender fitted no-one and everyone fails to conform in some way. One said she “performed” gender, meaning she made herself look alluring, and there is another difference: to her gender is strongly linked to sexuality, to me it is about other aspects of personality as well.

Other people are AFAB non-binary. Their gender is neither masculine nor feminine, they say. They may signal it with androgynous hairstyles or clothes, or dress conventionally as women. These two groups, though their theory is completely different, may have similar character and similar behaviour: the tragedy is that they are turned against each other, when they might work together for common goals.

Perhaps it is the Quaker in me, but I don’t think the theory or understanding is as important as what we want and what we do. Trans women don’t fit gender conventions, at least not those applying to men. Trans men have found a way to live in this current gendered patriarchal society which works for them. Younger adults are maturing in a less violent society, with no corporal punishment at school, smacking by parents frowned on and possibly criminal, and so are less violent and controlling, with violent crime rates decreasing. They can then be more gender fluid. By one measure more people call themselves “non-binary” than “trans”. The old model of binary transition from one set of gender roles and markers, which do not fit me, to another, which fit me slightly better but still do not fit me, is giving way to a rejection of gender roles by both “gender non-conforming” and “non-binary” folks.

The problem in prisons is not trans women in women’s prisons- or indeed trans women being kept in men’s prisons- but privatisation and austerity. Trans women in women’s loos- well, more and more places have “all-gender toilets”. Refuges can find ways of keeping potentially violent trans women out of communal spaces, and help them in other ways. There is no problem with trans women which cannot be solved by a bit of thought and good will, and there is no need for all the fear and anger to be directed against gender recognition. Gender recognition is not the problem, and all that energy is being wasted. Gender non-conforming is pitted against non-binary.

Not passing

He wore a multicoloured skirt, in a light shiny fabric with narrow pleats, mid calf length, under various more androgynous layers. He had a beard. It took me some time to think when a woman might wear such a skirt- on holiday in high summer, perhaps, five hundred miles south of wherever you normally live, on the sunniest days. Some might just possibly think it evening wear. There he was, bold as brass, shameless, striding over the Millennium Bridge.

He. They, possibly. Ridiculous solipsistic man, wanting to be looked at and only inspiring disgust. Or, wonderful, inspiring and courageous person, subverting gender rules and rules about aesthetic expression- you can’t wear something so beautiful on a mid-September afternoon in London. At most a silk tie or scarf, if you are particularly raffish, rather than a silk skirt.

His choice. Some think him “inappropriate” (imagine that little moue of disapproval in the word. It’s whispered, scarcely audible, though filled with venom) and some heroic, and he does what he does.

Others will create lines, and I can’t. Each woman reading this will have experienced, probably in the last 24 hours, being shut up, talked over, interrupted or simply ignored by a man. I get ignored or patronised by both sexes, and women’s anger is coming out more and more. Trans women who pass, whose face, figure, mannerisms, voice, hair, dress sense, do not give them away, are accepted as women. Those of us who don’t may be accepted as trans women, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. I would like to draw a line just below me in the hierarchy, and it’s a hierarchy and I am better than them or at least more deserving- I’m making an effort and they’re not. My voice sometimes has masculine harmonics in it, and that’s alright, surely? I’ve completed facial electrolysis and so that should be a minimum requirement: a beard is deeply inappropriate. For trans women at least, gender non-conforming or non-binary people have different rules. So I should be accepted in the women’s spaces, where I usually don’t speak, but if you haven’t completed hair removal it should be among your highest priorities. And a GNC man or non-binary AMAB should not be in women’s spaces. I can’t produce a line. The only rationally defensible line is of Stealth, which places a burden on trans folk- too great a burden, I say, because I can’t bear it. Or, perhaps, absolutely anything goes.

Women are drawing lines. Some who feel free to state their needs without apology demand women-only space, and see me as a man. I was eleven, the first time someone shouted at me out of a car window. I won’t repeat the comment here. But I will say that I did not start to heal from the years of those kind of interactions until I found women only space.

I don’t feel able to ignore that pain, and yet it makes a demand on me which I find too great to bear. It is a conflict, not a problem. Problems have solutions, but conflicts have outcomes. My hope is that the situation is in flux. It is with that man in a skirt, an eyecatching, ridiculous, glorious skirt, shifting gender norms, and with other non-binary folk, finding more or less subtle ways to subvert gender norms. And with female anger at other targets, such as handsy or cat-calling men, which might also change society.

Meanwhile I will do what I want, unable to rely on a rule that I can because there is no such rule, hoping I will be alright.

Non-binary recognition

Non-binary recognition? “Soon”, promises the UK government. As it has taken a year from the announcement to start consulting on trans gender recognition, that might be a long time. We want people who identify [as non-binary] to be able to live discrimination-free lives in accordance with who they believe their true selves to be, says the consultation, but not when.

Non-binary recognition is a complex issue, with many potential implications for the law and public-service provision, the consultation says. They are quite simple. Non-binary people are not protected from discrimination, and they should be. It would be simple enough for most toilets open to the public to include non-binary facilities, either by making all the toilets all-gender, or by making a disabled people’s toilet all-gender.

Maternity leave and paternity leave need to be equalised. People could be recorded on birth certificates as parents rather than “mother” or “father”.

But we might not know what sex people were!!!

If you can’t tell, it’s none of your business. Stop trying to pigeonhole people. Sex is not a reliable indicator of other qualities or characteristics. What sex someone is is only important if you want to have sex together.

Many forms ask your sex, and that is not necessary unless services should be different or sex-segregated. Admin and IT systems usually assume only two genders, but these could be changed within a reasonable time- certainly the next time the system is overhauled. Marriage and civil partnership should be open to all kinds of couples, including non-binary parties.

Purely on the issue of gender recognition, it is difficult to get evidence of living as non-binary, because documents don’t show what that means. Non-binary people don’t always seek out a gender dysphoria diagnosis. So, a gender recognition system which recognised non-binary might not insist on those things. But, it should not insist on those things anyway.

The current requirement for applicants to make a statutory declaration that they intend to live in their acquired gender until death: we would like to hear respondents’ views on whether they think non-binary people should be asked to commit to living permanently in a particular gender. What does it mean to live in a particular gender? You can normally spot someone who is “living as a woman”, but there is no one way of expressing as non-binary. Anyone may dress androgynously if they wish. So you are living as non-binary if you tell people you are non-binary. How people express that will develop over time.

The question now asked is,

20. Currently UK law does not recognise any gender other than male and female. Do you think that there need to be changes to the Gender Recognition Act to accommodate individuals who identify as non-binary? If you would like to, please expand more upon your answer.

Yes; but they should not be allowed to delay reform of the GRA for binary trans people.

The Scottish consultation gave alternatives for non-binary recognition:

  1. Changes to administrative forms.
  2. the Book of Non-Binary Identity, a register of those who wished to be recorded as non-binary.
  3. limited identity document and record changes, such as passports and driving licences.
  4. self-ID. The consultation listed other legal issues this would raise.
  5. an incremental approach, adopting options 1,2 and 3 and moving towards full recognition
  6. seeking amendment of the Equality Act.

Conversion therapy

What is conversion therapy? For gay people, it attempts to stop them acting on sexual attraction, or even to create other sex attraction. For trans people, it is less clear. “Conversion therapy” aimed at changing the character of the person, to “whip the sissy out of” a trans girl, is clearly vile.

Human rights law recognises it should be our choice whether to have surgery and hormone therapy. Gender recognition should not depend on whether someone has been sterilised. In the same way therapy should explore what gender dysphoria means to this person, and what is the best way to proceed, which may be transition with hormones and surgery, and may not. It should explore mental health problems which arise because of the stress of dealing with gender dysphoria.

So the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ position statement on supporting transgender and gender diverse people is insufficient. It defines conversion therapy as Treatments for transgender people that aim to suppress or divert their gender identity – i.e. to make them cisgender – that is exclusively identified with the sex assigned to them at birth. That has no meaning, because it conflates gender and sex. Expressing their gendered characteristics need not mean presenting as the other sex. Certainly a psychiatrist should explore whether sterilisation is necessary, or may be avoided. Often, trans people do not transition: a trans woman feels her size would make it impossible, a partner would not accept it, and we all bear the costs of being read as trans sometimes. Sometimes the costs of transition are too high. But whether the person can accept themselves as a feminine man or masculine woman, is a different question. That is, are they transgender- not fitting gender stereotypes for their sex- or transsexual, needing to express themselves and function as a person of the other sex?

That feminine man may not be open to considering living as a feminine man, if his attempt to make a “Real Man” of himself has failed, he sees the possibility of being able to express his character as a woman, and has a fixed idea that a “real trans woman” craves hormones and surgery. Psychiatrists need to see people before we are desperate, and need the time to explore with us. They claim gender-affirming medical interventions improve wellbeing and mental health in transgender and gender diverse adults– which is again confused. What is the difference between transgender and gender diverse? There is only one mention of non-binary, where they define gender identity as Self-identification and/or social identity as male/female/other gender. Other gender identities may include gender neutral, non-binary, fluid, and genderqueer.

When a psychiatrist sees someone presenting with gender problems, it is not conversion therapy to explore whether they are trans or non-binary. Possibly, these are not separate syndromes but merely differences in how we see ourselves, not underlying nature but the products of different experiences, not immutable once formed but malleable. Only the stress and anxiety of being gender non-conforming makes the identity seem fixed. The psychiatrist should not impose a course of action but enable the patient to see the best course for themself, including considering courses they had not imagined. Yet it can be unbearable not to know– if transition seems the answer, I just want to get on with it, and cannot see it is not right for me until it is completed.

The College supports psychiatrists in fully exploring their patient’s gender identity (involving their families where appropriate) in a non-judgemental, supportive and ethical manner. That involves considering options- transition, and non-binary expression both in the external symbols and expressing ones underlying qualities. It involves valuing those qualities.

Gender is a spectrum, we say. Some people conform to their gender stereotype with comfort, some reject the gender stereotype but not their sex, some are non-binary, some transition. If it is a spectrum, there are no clearly defined boxes, that someone is non-binary or is transgender, immutably and diagnosably by psychiatrists.