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.

Lockdown birds

Bored in the lockdown, I notice the birds are strutting their stuff and sometimes psyching each other out on the untidy spruce hedge south of my back yard.

It was a beautiful day on Sunday. After I went outside to wait on the birds, they seemed to have decided to do something else- feed, perhaps. This was the only picture I took. The colours, unadjusted, are beautiful.

I waited, in the gorgeous light, including during the Zoom Quaker meeting. I thought, I am distracted, roll with it, I won’t distract others too much. I was worshipping, and the ego-acquisitiveness of wanting a picture, unknowing if I could get one, and what that made me feel seemed suitable for contemplation. Once, a bird alighted for a moment and took off before I could adjust the camera.

On Monday, the light was much poorer, and these needed adjusting.

I am so pleased to have caught the moment of take-off. That’s luck, and snapping a lot, and spending the time.

And on Tuesday the weather is better.

I disliked the irritating habit they have of perching so the fronds are in the way, and the camera focuses on the fronds. So for my favourite photo, the one that is possibly worth keeping, I have made a feature of the hedge.

Or perhaps framed in this way:

St Pancras II

At the South end of St Pancras station stand the parting couple, embracing, a stolid sculpture based on Brief Encounter. Normally I enter on the lower level, so had not before noticed the plinth:

It is full of life. The faces are ordinary and heroic and beautiful, sometimes worn or old but unbowed.

Around them the tunnels and arches of the station swoop, in foreshortened relief.

What text distracts her from her hug? Or is the hug an imposition?

Commuter trains are as crowded as ever.

So crowded, so noble and determined they make me think of refugees.

A Sikh among the workers laying the track.

Further on is John Betjeman, standing on the floor not a plinth, hurrying for a train, but in this light he is too dark for a photograph. There are texts in the stone along the walk-way, quotes from Betjeman:

Here where the cliffs alone prevail
I stand exultant, neutral, free
And from the cushion of the gale
Behold a huge, consoling sea

A gentle guest, a willing host
Affection deeply planted-
It’s strange that those we miss the most
Are those we take for granted.

Beyond the throb of the engines is the throbbing heart of all

In praise of self-loathing

Put a tiger in your tank! You run really fast from a tiger.

First day canvassing for the election had good and bad moments. The best was persuading someone to think more about voting for us, possibly even to change her vote.

More disturbing was another woman’s shouting. She had an unbreakable syllogism:

We knew what we voted for
You have not given it
You are undemocratic.

Ian tried arguing. He too voted to Leave. The Tories were in government, and they messed up their own Brexit- they could have been out by March had they tried to exit in the National interest, rather than their own- but her talking point, or shouting point, was impregnable. All her anger in Life, it seemed, was channelled through this one issue against us.

In the cafe for lunch, we were just leaving when a man started shouting at us. “I fought for my country! How can you wear that thing” (a red rosette) “that anti-British traitor!” I looked at him. He looked late fifties, so he might have been in Northern Ireland, or possibly the Falklands. I tried saying my father also fought for this country, but he was not interested in listening.

There was I at my most beautiful- not cowed or triggered, but wanting to understand and engage, to find some common ground. When Beth came over, he just started shouting “Get out! Get out!” She told him, reasonably, she was leaving and he could not tell her not to use a cafe.

I came to this position, by the next morning. If you disagree with a more articulate debater, it is a reasonable tactic to keep repeating your point until they shut up, which is more self respecting than putting your hands over your ears and shouting NONONONO until they go away. We don’t have the right to change another’s mind.

And that evening, tired after canvassing, I sat up until midnight maundering in my chair, fiddling with my phone.

I took two hours with two separate Samaritan men working it out. They gave me the time but irritated me. What use is self-loathing, one asked, as if recognising it would be enough for me to slough it off. People saw it in me and pointed it out last century. One reason for it was my “disgusting” (a word I used) cross-dressing.

It is my main motivation, or at least was. It may motivate many perfectionists, and if you can be close to perfect being perfectionist is painful but effective. Gosh you get things done. It was wound up too tight in me, I think, or worked with other characteristics to hurt me too much so I broke, but until I broke it got me working.

The other reason I don’t give up until I am dangling on the end of a rope is that I am not consciously aware of my discomfort. Now all my feelings came to the surface- confusion, hurt, the desperate need to kick out a climate-denying MP and a nationalist government, one of whose aims is to whip up hatred, including of trans women. I am confused, and can’t bear confusion.

My previous way of responding, not knowing my feelings, was to shut down. I would lose all motivation and stop, “depressed”. No, really, Depressed. The self-deprecation, refusal to believe that any problem should give any difficulty to someone who is not worthless, weak, useless, or even that it is a real problem is strong in me. I suppose it is reassuring. If I am not really depressed, I can get up any moment and surmount all difficulties.

Excavating feelings however painful is my way to health and freedom.

So I slept badly, and wondered about not canvassing on Monday. I was in chaos, perceiving different feelings, trying to put together a rational understanding and not grasping it, frightened.

Highly intelligent, I am dependant on my rational understanding. It keeps me safe, and without it I am terrified, which is a problem when the world cannot be understood.

And I talked it through. I have a tiger in my tank. I went canvassing, which in a more Labour area was more encouraging.

anti trans propaganda

What about the rape victims excluded from women’s services by the presence of male bodied people?

That would raise feelings of concern and perplexity in kind, caring people. It does not mention trans women by name, because trans women also are a vulnerable group, who might gain sympathy from the well-meaning.

When seeking to exclude trans people, don’t name the trans people. Instead, suggest there are threats to vulnerable women, and make dark allusions to trans people. “Male-bodied” is a weird term to use in normal conversation, but does not have the sympathetic connotations of trans people. Instead it alludes to the well known phenomenon that some women after a sexual assault cannot bear to be touched by a man, even a male relative.

Make it a question. An assertion of fact- rape victims are excluded- could be answered by demands for justification. What about the vulnerable? demands compassion and care without leaving space for challenge.

Having raised concern and compassion in potential dupes, the propagandist can produce more and more detail, increasing emotion, until finally he names the solution-

Vulnerable women are excluded because we need single sex spaces.

There are no single sex spaces, because the male bodied people insist on going there.

At that point the natural sympathy for the underdog of the caring middle class person has been developed so far for the rape victims that it can outweigh their sympathy for trans people.

Stating that rape victims would not go to rape crisis centres because of the theoretical possibility that they might see a trans woman there would be obviously ridiculous, especially as there are so few of us.

Still the propagandist does not use the term trans woman. He refers to “trans rights activists”, unreasonable, domineering people pushing for the right to ride roughshod over everyone else, setting women’s rights at naught, entirely solipsistic and lacking any sympathy. Or to “male-bodied” people again, weird, as out of place in a rape crisis centre as a fox in a henhouse. Never mind that over half of Rape Crisis centres also help men who have been sexually assaulted.

To build up hate, avoid anything which could humanise your hate-group. That is the basis of the tactic of professing sympathy with “real transsexuals”, also allegedly the victims of the TRAs. Except that when pressed, no one is ever admitted to be a “real transsexual”, and even “trans women” are falsely distinguished from them. Even those who speak on behalf of WPUK are told to use the men’s loos.

See what I did there? I did not use the names of WPUK’s trans collaborators. I do not want the names to be remembered, because I do not want the people to be given too much significance, and referring without names dehumanises them a bit. They are “collaborators”, rather than people.

It’s about feeling. It’s about shutting off any sympathy for the out group, trans women, and creating a sense that they threaten people who deserve sympathy, such as children, or rape victims. The allegations have almost no substance, but can still be spun. So any act which can be portrayed as offensive by a trans woman is emphasised, and constantly returned to.

Of course people should be engaged and persuaded, but that should be primarily by facts. If you need to distort facts, and rely excessively on building emotion in order to persuade, you are a propagandist.

I tend to feel we need to persuade. Someone referred to anti-trans campaigners as “fascists”. That’s arguable: as she says, if its philosophy is of morally mandating marginalized groups out of existence it’s fascist. However, fascism is associated with nationalism, and British fascists like the BNP have sought to justify violence against Jews and non-white people. Fascism is abhorrent. Use of the word “fascist” without showing the arguments justifying that puts people off, even many trans allies. They think you absurd. Yes our opponents are arguably fascist- show what they are doing, building hate for a vulnerable group through lies and half truths, before naming this as “fascist”.

Examples: “If Corbyn were to declare ‘my pronouns are she/her’ Labour would have its first female leader”. Yes, but why would he? This spreads the canard that transition is a whim or fantasy, rather than the only thing we can do.

“It isn’t about trans rights because gender critical feminists are in favour of trans people having the same rights as everyone else.” She would take away my Equality Act rights and expel me from spaces I have inhabited since 2002, but she refuses to countenance the language that describes that, or anything anyone could object to. She is preaching hate, but claims it is love.

What I can do

I’m not sure I would call it a personal crisis-

Last week I was effective. I was out protesting, talking, persuading, encouraging, writing, photographing for eight hours a day. I valued myself and people valued me- that vicar on Friday talked of me dancing on Tuesday. I think she saw I needed valued, and she valued me.

The week before I was not effective. I was supposed to go in to the office twice and both times failed to do so, and the thing is that I did not realise I would not until I did not. There’s the moment when I should get up, having had breakfast, and shower and dress and I just carried on reading the Guardian on my phone. Well, my phone is my main source of dopamine. And this week, on Tuesday I just stayed in bed.

I don’t have the energy or motivation to get up but until I should but don’t I don’t know it. I imagine I will.

I don’t know what I feel. I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what I will do, and when I think I want to do something I don’t know if I will. I would not call it a personal crisis because it doesn’t feel that bad to me; it’s only when I see what I do that I think maybe I should be worried.

And yet I was effective last week. It’s odd. I wanted to do all that stuff.

Consciousness is overrated. Subconscious (superconscious?) me makes decisions, conscious me watches. Possibly there are different voices in subconscious me that pull different ways, so one wants to go to the office, and possibly it only fibs to conscious me that it wants to because temporarily that makes conscious me feel safe. Possibly the bit getting its way, and not going to the office, is the Real Me following my heart, and possibly it’s childish-in-a-bad-way me, following immediate pain-avoidance at the cost of long term goals.

I have the experience of speaking with whole me integrity, which indicates that at other times I am torn, or in two minds.

The good thing I have done today, rather than phone-touching, is half an hour’s meditation, holding XR Quakers in the light at the time they were worshipping. I think it “good” because it was focused beyond myself.

It seems to me that in the lower ranks of that office people are constantly irked, and the strict hierarchy is shown by who gets to moan and who has to listen. C said to me she did not expect me in, the day after I did not get the job, and I said, well, it was a matter of pride- and self-interest, getting me into a routine whatever my motivation. It was, that day, and that worked. Then after S complained to me about M moaning to her and how M should think of that quote, you know, the something to accept what you can’t change, I walked back down the corridor fighting the tears (usually a losing battle for me) deciding I would demand a listening ear and it would be whole life all problems, the expression of pain I would erupt into, starting I used to be a solicitor! Well, I fought down the tears and found myself hearing an account of someone’s Saga holiday in Egypt- not telling us of tombs and temples, but of the transport getting there. The day trip to the Pyramids (Great Pyramid of Khufu, I thought to myself, not all pyramids are at Cairo) involved internal flights.

“Now you’ll know what to do, when they weigh your heart against a feather,” I said, but she did not rise to that one. There may be many things messing up my relationships there, but I doubt being trans helps- even if only in the sense that I had male privilege and have not got it now.

In a world which is almost all black, going to that office offers the faintest chance of the darkest grey for me. It’s not what I would have wanted. It may be all there is.

I feared I could not do the job anyway.

I have a cold, and together with the depression that takes away my motivation.

Mostly today I have played on my phone and watched telly. The Broo is after me again. I could have bought food or done washing. I liked the busker’s puppets, moving their mouths as if singing harmonies.

Extinction Rebellion VI

When the police are cutting people’s lockons, it doesn’t half smell. I watched them at it in the morning and afternoon. Several phone photographers were cranking round the police lines. “Pity she won’t stand somewhere else so we could get a better view,” said one, as the sparks flew. Those plastic shields would have protected us. I don’t know whether the police provided the protester’s visor and ear protection.

“What are Quakers then?” asked the policeman. Continue reading

Extinction Rebellion V

I start my day protesting with something beautiful. Today, I find a piano on the road south of Nelson’s Column, and play Einaudi.

I am so relaxed after this I ask someone to take a picture of me at the piano, for the blog. But this is not a holiday or festival: she says there is a need for people to be sitting in the road, to avoid police getting traffic going. I go over to see if I can do anything. Continue reading

Extinction Rebellion III

It was a bit of a shock to find Lambeth Bridge clear with traffic flowing freely. The police have been harsh. There are a few of them standing around on the corners. One says “Hello” as I come past, and there are some behind me now, with their night-sticks hanging. Someone said there were armed police about. Continue reading