Woman’s Place UK Manifesto

Woman’s Place UK has published their manifesto. There is a lot of good stuff in it, that I would support, except for the core demands, sneaked in in coded language. But we know what the code means, don’t we, ladies?

No trans women!

They start with barely a hint of transphobia:

We are united by our belief that women’s hard-won rights must be defended. We are against all forms of discrimination. We believe in the right of everyone to live their lives free from discrimination and harassment.

They don’t say here, or anywhere, that “woman” does not include trans woman. Or that excluding trans women from women’s space could ever be discrimination.

On economic status, they want caring work valued, and benefits restored. They want better enforcement of the Equality Act 2010. Careful what you wish for: that’s the Act that protects trans rights.

They oppose violence against women and girls. Here is the tragedy of their position: all their campaigning energy, and mine, is diverted onto their campaign

No trans women!

Implement the abolitionist model, criminalising those who exploit prostituted people (including pimps and sex buyers) and decriminalising the prostituted, providing practical and psychological exiting support.

That’s code too. Sex workers oppose it. They are “Sex worker excluding radical feminists” or SWERFs.

On health care, they demand Implement the NHS strategy of Elimination of Mixed Sex Accommodation in hospitals. Commit to uphold right to request a female clinician, carer or support worker and to have that request respected. But they don’t see me as female.

No trans women!

On education, they want An end to the provision of education by lobby groups and untrained or unregulated providers in all state schools and colleges. They really hate Mermaids, the charity supporting trans children and their families.

No Mermaids!

I entirely agree when they demand, Introduce a duty on schools and colleges to challenge harmful gender, sex and other stereotypes. That would benefit everyone. But Robust defence of the human right to freedom of speech in academia is because of students angry at ignorant and transphobic attitudes of some academics. Free Speech is not threatened when the media is relentlessly transphobic, and while students have campaigned, no academic career has been threatened for reasonable writing.

On Law, they say, Strengthen the Equality Act by restoring the statutory questionnaire; the duty to protect from third party harassment; and the power of tribunals to make wider recommendations. Enact Section 1 to compel action to reduce socio-economic disadvantage. As a former employment tribunal representative, I agree wholeheartedly. And with this: Enforce Public Sector Equality Duty and Equality Act, though they’d better watch out: the Equality duty was the reason their meeting in Leeds was cancelled. There are a lot of assorted demands, such as, Overhaul aggressive immigration laws and end the hostile environment policy. Many on the Left would agree.

Where women are housed in the prison estate, accommodation must be single-sex to protect their privacy, safety and dignity. So trans women, however long we have been transitioned, however harmless we are- me, perhaps, if I campaign too hard for Extinction Rebellion or pacifist causes- must rot on male vulnerable prisoner units with the paedophiles.

Participation in public life: Defend the use of sex-based mechanisms such as all-women shortlists.

“Sex-based” is of course code for you know what.

Here’s a radical demand: Action to end sexist, demeaning, objectifying, stereotypical images of women and girls throughout society and in particular in media, arts, advertising and the political sphere. Yet I agree: the campaign against “page 3” should only be the start. It would be a huge step towards abolishing the Patriarchy. It would however require them to devote their entire campaign to it. Many who support trans rights will not join them while they are anti-trans. Fully implemented it would mean censoring Shakespeare, but there is no suggestion here where they might start.

Support for sex-segregated sports. No-one seriously opposes having separate women’s competition, it’s just how you define “woman” on the margins. Caster Semenya is a woman who should be entitled to enter women’s competition. So are trans women compliant with the IOC rules.

Women should be supported to pursue their right to freedom of association. That is, hold feminist meetings excluding trans women. Weary sigh. If the debate were not so charged, trans women might leave them alone, and go to women’s groups only by invitation. I don’t want a feminist gathering suddenly to focus on me, where my presence is the only issue. But the WPUK campaign has done a great deal to inflame the debate.

So there’s a lot of good stuff here, but throughout there is the coded demand:

No trans women!

And the rest has not the slightest credibility, because they have not held one meeting, or posted one video, except to campaign against trans rights. They could put radical feminism on the national agenda, but instead they campaign against us. It is a tragedy. We should be allies.

I found the profusion of developing pine cones beautiful:

“Cis privilege” and safe spaces

Do we regard women’s need for safe spaces as privilege?

Well, I don’t. Yet “cis privilege” exists. I try to create understanding and see from more than one perspective. I want to get beyond trump cards, the killer argument which makes one side win, or Oppression Olympics, where we compete to show our suffering is greater. I would welcome a response which might find some grain of value in this, and build on it.

I do not believe in “female privilege”, as Patriarchy favours men. The need for women’s safe spaces comes from Patriarchy. But Kyriarchy- rule by lords, or the privileged, over others, is a useful word: people of colour, queers and others are also oppressed. There are intersections.

Trans people are in all sorts of cultures around the world, over millennia. Trans people are those who think they are, want to be, or want to be seen as, the other sex. The word transsexual was coined to fit that, but it does not quite fit. Some thought that the word increases pressure on us to have surgery which some of us may not want, and some say that we fit a cultural perception of the other sex so “transgender” fits better. Then some object to being seen as culturally a woman: if by genes, gonads and genitals you are a woman, you are a woman no matter what the culture thinks.

Part of privilege is not having to explain yourself. We’re everywhere, and we always have been throughout recorded history. Still we have to explain ourselves. We have to explain ourselves to ourselves, to pluck up the courage to transition, and we have to explain ourselves to others, to justify doing what we want to do.

Being a Quaker, I value experience above belief. I observe that dressing in clothes deemed fit for women by my culture and a feminine name were what I wanted more than anything else in the world. This came after a period when I tried to make a man of myself, going for long walks with a rucksack filled with bricks, or joining the territorial army. Lots of trans women do. I now think of that as suffering social pressure to conform as a “normal” male.

Part of privilege is having spaces where you fit. At Yearly Meeting I noticed a queue outside the “All-gender” toilet, and wondered if I were female enough to use the women’s. I decided I was. I have only noticed all-gender toilets in the past year or so, and might be delaying a wheelchair-user’s use.

The need for safe spaces is the opposite of privilege. The common space is made for men- so when there is a sex murderer on the loose, the police tell women not to go out alone, rather than impose a curfew on men. And, the common space is not made for trans folk either. We don’t have our discrete spaces, we are lumped in together.

So we scrap amongst ourselves. I experience a great deal of sympathy from women. Some are proud to be allies, speaking up for trans people. Many say “trans women are women” which as a factual statement might be disputed, and its implications taken to the extreme are absurd. Non-trans women are women too. But it’s a statement of intent about practical arrangements, about how we treat people.

Some women are upset and angry to see a trans woman in women’s space. Some women are creeped out by it, and some collect stories of actual trans woman sex offenders, as if to tar us all with the same brush, but not all women are.

I tend to feel that temporary solidarity from women who are repulsed by a trans woman in a woman’s loo would advance feminist concerns and subvert conservative gender roles (conservatives hate trans women because we subvert gender roles by transitioning, even if we reinforce gender roles in our presentation after transition). So I feel recognising some trans disprivilege has value, even if you don’t feel privileged over us yourself.

If “trans” refers to one who crosses over, “cis” means one on the same side. I want a word which means “non-trans” without clearly excluding trans women from the class of “women”. Now, we have two sets of terms, one prioritising genes gonads and genitals as a way of moulding how people should react, and the other emphasising universal (though rare) human actions. Could we have one language?

Advice for Julie Bindel

I doubt she will hear it, but I will try.

Julie Bindel is a gender-critical feminist often accused of being transphobic, including by me. There has been some concern about British gender critical feminists working with the hard Right in America against trans rights. Venice Allan went to America to make contact with hard-Right groups, and also apparently “laughed at a racist posh girl calling a feminist activist a Nazi”.

My advice is, don’t do this in public on Twitter. Phone her up, or just ignore it.

You agree about a lot. I don’t agree with this, but you both believe that trans rights conflict with women’s rights, and you both campaign for women’s rights against the encroachment of trans rights. You don’t campaign about all the same things, but most things one campaigns on, the other will be broadly sympathetic.

There are two views which a gender critical feminist might have. One is that the hard-Right is anti-woman, seeking to enforce regressive gender stereotypes, against birth control, and against bodily autonomy when there might be an embryo, and you would have nothing to do with them. The other is, while the hard-Right is wrong about almost everything, they are right that trans women are a threat in women’s spaces, and might provide useful support for feminists on the Left wanting to make that argument.

My personal view is that no feminist should have anything to do with The Heritage Foundation, but I can see why Posie Parker does.

I admire Julie Bindel’s integrity even as I disagree with her. I admire the directness of her campaigning. She uses words brilliantly, her polemic skewers her enemies, yet she should be able to make the leap of empathy with Posie Parker to understand why she has done what she has done, and (if she criticises at all) only criticise in private. You agree about almost everything. Do not let the one thing you disagree about come between you.

I agree with Julie Bindel when she said, in three tweets on 1 February,

Before anyone suggests that what I am about to say is in order to get myself a reprieve from the 15 years of hell being targeted by the trans lobby, I am aware that even if I set fire to myself in the street by way of ‘apologising’ I would simply be accused of causing the death of trans people who were in the vicinity and died of smoke inhalation – so not only do I feel I have nothing to apologise for, it would be a massive waste of time. But I want to say how I despise the latest tactics of Posie Parker and disciples, and want no part in it. As far as I am concerned, they are motivated by narcissism, bigotry, and ego. They are causing harm. THE END.

But I do not think she should have said it in public. It gives delight to her and Posie’s common enemies. Where do you think I found that screenshot above? On a trans campaign group. Everyone there is delighted at their- oh, I’ll be honest, our- opponents falling out.

In a similar way, the Heritage Foundation want to set gender critical feminists and trans people against each other. They are on the Right, and they recognise that gender critical feminists and trans people are on the anti-authoritarian Left, however much we might accuse each other of being right-wing. The Heritage Foundation is delighted that their enemies are fighting amongst themselves, for thereby we give ammunition to Right-wing causes and reduce the effectiveness of the Left. They might achieve that by funding trans women, so their choice to fund the gender-critical feminists is instructive: they believe that no-one will see the difference, and imagine that these women are standing up for traditional gender roles; and they believe that preventing the freedom to transition will lessen all freedom to express gender variance. That their desires are bad does not mean that their perceptions of the route to what they desire are unintelligent.

The Left is fractious. To the Left of the Labour Party, recently, there have been the Socialist Workers Party, the Socialist Party, the Communist Party of Britain, and the Socialist Labour Party, with clear differences between them a bit like the differences between the Free Church of Scotland and the United Free Church of Scotland. For me, Jeremy Corbyn and I don’t know, Chukka Umunna would be better PMs than Theresa May and I would leaflet and door-knock for either of them within the Labour Party. Twitter especially, and the internet more generally, makes the fractiousness worse. We have to find ways of working together.

Since writing this post, I have changed my mind. Julie Bindel is right. The hard-Right funding for gender critical feminists should be proclaimed as loudly as possible.

Jean Hatchet

Jean Hatchet wrote about anti-trans campaigners taking money and help from far-Right American groups The Heritage Foundation and Alliance Defending Freedom. Her blog post has been taken down, after being widely shared among trans people. For the moment, there’s an archive link here. I have evidence of a soi-disant “left-wing” feminist taking far-right American money here. The amount Jean Hatchet named was $15,000.

She wrote, I don’t care what these people think about trans ideology. That cannot be separated from the things they do and advocate that specifically harm women. She named opposing abortion, supporting Mr Trump, and opposing divorce because it “causes social problems”.

There is a radical feminist argument against trans inclusion. I don’t accept it myself, but I see the intellectual basis for it. However these people paying the far-right money only care about excluding trans, and their ideas why are quite different. Most people don’t delve into those arguments: they don’t care about the specific arguments why men and women are different, and the result is to affirm the hard-right beliefs about those differences, which is the intention of those right-wing groups: differences of gender, of natural and normative personality and gifts, rather than of reproductive biology. That’s why the Times, Spectator and other media devote so much space to monstering trans women. The hard right campaign against trans people harms feminists, even gender-critical ones.

Jean Hatchet’s blog still contains her speech to the “We Need to Talk” anti-trans campaign. Trans rights campaigners should read it.

For women – their experience at the hands of violent men is not science fiction. They don’t wake one day and find themselves in the wrong body. They wake up and find themselves fighting for their lives. Or being raped. Or shielding their children from attack. They wake to find they are still facing a day where they will be humiliated and degraded and shamed and stripped of their confidence and human dignity by a man who hates them. He hates them because they are – not born in the wrong body – but born in a woman’s body. Domestic violence is overwhelmingly a male on female crime. Not a “gendered” crime. A “sexed” crime.

She quotes another woman’s experience: I hope one day [my story] may help others. My first encounter with male violence was at 6 months old, my dad damaged my skull after he punched me, violence continued against me until I was 3, when he then locked me in a bedroom and set fire to our house. Thankfully I was rescued by the fire department, but was immediately put into care. Things were fine until I reached 9, that was when the sexual abuse started. I was living in a care home. One of the carers was male. He abused me until I was able to leave at 16. After that I met my husband, from the start he beat me, raped me, and financially Destroyed me. But at that point I thought I deserved it, after all that has happened through my life I convinced myself that something was wrong with me, and this was all my fault. So I went along with it, I was defeated. 10 years later, I happened to find Mumsnet, and from that I found you, you changed all that for me, you gave me strength I never knew possible, you showed me this wasn’t my fault.

I can answer the error in her speech. She says, A piece of paper – a legal document downloaded from the internet will get determined, violent men like these easy access to a refuge if they want it. Not true: Layla Moran MP refuted it. See here.

The great triumph of the right-wing has been to set left-wing campaigners against each other. We have aided it ourselves- too often campaigning groups campaign for their own rights not for those of others, and some feminists campaign about the number of women on FTSE 100 boards rather than women in refuges. Trans women need to campaign on wider feminist issues. I am grateful to lesbian campaigners such as in Stonewall who recognise that the campaign against trans people will harm all queers, not just us. My cycling speed and endurance is probably nowhere near Jean Hatchet’s, but, whatever her views on trans rights I need to support her campaign against male violence.

December 2019: I see she’s been out successfully seeking notoriety by trying a bra on in a men’s changing room!!!

Shock, Horror!!!

It seems she was treated with the same bemused tolerance as the British use to other eccentrics, even trans women.

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.

The Spectator

Is The Spectator magazine feminist? You might conclude not, from their article on the Irish abortion referendum, quoting people saying things like “Is abortion the killing of a human being?” This they call “plain speaking”. “We are ahead of history… to be one day- if we hold our nerve and damp down the crazy false progressivism that assaults us- vindicated by history and medical science. Because one day- for certain- the world will arrive at a consensual consciousness about unborn boys and girls: that they are as human as 6’3″ rugby players.”

Stirring stuff. Unfortunately, on the issue of trans rights alone, James Kirkup in the Spectator is pretending to be feminist, and managing to fool some feminists. The mask slips sometimes, as he talks of “the loony lefty SJW Labour Party” (which is mostly centrist) but his flattery and playing up their martyrdom complex is enough to get them sharing his articles: “women who are struggling to make their voices heard…[are] at risk of abuse or accusations of transphobic bigotry. Or even being assaulted.” “The fear that persuades some people that they can’t say what they think about something, or even ask questions about it.” My emphasis- he has to be repetitive, churning out so much drivel.

He’s not very bright, Kirkup. He was writing about David Lewis, who was suspended from the Labour Party so that he would be unable to stand for the post of Women’s Officer, which is open only to women. He quoted the words which show that Lewis is not trans, from his own mouth. “My womanness is expressed by my saying ‘I self identify as a woman’ now and again on Wednesdays. I make no changes in my behaviour or my appearance… I enjoy the full womanness of my beard.” That would make him non-binary, and so ineligible for the post of women’s officer. But even if Lewis never admitted to being a man, what he says there is unbelievable. It is internally contradictory, one of the grounds for disbelieving a person. “My priority is to inform the CLP… about what happens when you say that someone’s gender depends only on what they say and nothing else.” That’s ironic. He is clearly masculine, from “only what he says and nothing else”.

He wants to argue that the policy is unworkable. It is easily summarised: trans women are women. Lewis is not a trans woman, he is not even claiming to be a trans woman, a claim which would be clearly false from the things he is quoted as saying. The policy says, The Labour Party’s All Women Shortlists are open to all women, including self-identifying trans women. Similarly, women’s officers and minimum quotas for women in the Labour Party are open to all women, including self-identifying trans women.

You are a trans woman before you transition. A trans woman who is unwilling to express herself feminine, in women’s clothes and hairstyle, is not going to have the confidence to stand as a women’s officer or even a delegate, and unlikely to be elected if she does, so there is no problem. And people standing for those roles with the intention of bringing the Labour Party and its policies into disrepute, like David Lewis, will be easily marked by what they say.

Kirkup is a transphobe. Consider his descriptions of trans women: an “angry mob” of “violent misogynists” “silencing lesbians”, and that’s just his headlines. He seeks to foment fear of us. “Would the safety of women’s spaces be compromised if anyone could gain the legal right to enter them simply by saying the words ‘I am a woman’?” No-one is proposing that but Kirkup himself, going beyond wilful misunderstanding to lies, intended to arouse anger.

Kirkup’s aim is to foment discord within the Labour Party. That’s what the Spectator does: encourage the extreme right by printing Breitbart writers, put ludicrous arguments for hard right positions- abortion is the killing of a human being, forsooth- and try to set lefties against each other. Normally it fails in the last aim, because people on the Left can see through it. Melanie Phillips wrote in the magazine, rather than the blog- you have to register to see this quote- “Gender is not a social construct but a biological fact. Gender derives from a complex relationship between biological sex and behaviour. And nature and nurture are not easily separable.” That’s their position on gender- it is immutable. “From divorce and lone parenthood to gay marriage what was once regarded as a source of disadvantage or category error has been transformed into a human right.”

Gender critical feminists are on the Left. So are trans women, mostly, if we are at all involved in activism. The Left has to sort this out. The authoritarian Right is not our friend.

For some sanity on abortion, today of all days, here’s the Irish Times.

What is a “woman”?

“My femininity is different from your femaleness,” I said. “Oh, that’s good,” she said, writing it down. The gender non-conforming woman insists she is a woman and women are oppressed because they are women. Freedom for women requires a strict definition of “woman”, excluding trans women even though it includes some with disorders of sexual development.

My Radical feminist Friend (I have more than one- do not assume any individual) wrote, The illusion of gender difference is the one making it possible to let one sex be dominant and the other subordinate. Any definition of “woman” which includes me would exclude her, or restrict and limit her to “femininity”. Trans is no escape from oppression: she mocked the trans “man”, 5′ tall with a high voice and feminine mannerisms.

A social conservative arguing for traditional marriage, even for women to remain at home looking after children, wrote, Men’s gift, physical strength, is at the same time their greatest liability. It enables them to be extremely helpful but also enables them to get what they want without regard for what is good for everyone. Suddenly I saw this social conservative was on the Left, in seeking common goals and goods rather than individual dominance. We would argue over our differences while here is this clear agreement.

Rather than state advantages for the GNC woman’s definition of “woman”, I might couch them as fears, what she seeks to avoid, to show that I too seek to avoid what she fears- or can gain the advantages she seeks. I can assuage your fears, I say, reassuringly. However it seems they are fears, she is protecting what she has against possible loss.

If I am a woman because of my femininity, then the GNC woman feels she is either restricted to femininity, or excluded from womanhood. She will not accept either. So her definition of woman relies on sexual dimorphism, and whatever fun we can have with intersex or disorders of sexual development, the distinction holds. Including an androgen-insensitive XY woman does not mean she must include me. My side could argue the different intersex folk show sufficient fuzziness at the edges of the definition for me to squeeze in. She does not accept that.

Who needs protected? The GNC woman says women, the XX people, from men, the XY people, because of men’s physical strength and gendered propensity to violence and expressing anger against others rather than internalising it against themselves. Possibly I could say with that social conservative that those needing protection are those who seek “what is good for everyone rather than what they want”, but not all who transition are on the left, and she would say transition is a conservative phenomenon. Both sides are mostly on the left, accusing the other side of being on the right. “You perpetuate gender roles!” they say. “You write for The Spectator!” we reply.

My radical feminist friend told me of girls brought up as boys in Afghanistan, because without a male relative a woman cannot go out. So a widow takes her “son”. One such boy-girl revelled in the freedom that gave her, and one pined for feminine pursuits. People have gender, it just does not correlate to sex.

To answer “Who is a woman?” I would say, everyone who wants to be one or considers herself one- not in the moment on a whim, but as a settled conviction and desire for all of life. Then, “What is a woman like?” Anything women born women want to be, without restriction, but complete diversity including that femininity which appeals to some women, and to all of us who transition to womanhood.

Social pressure III

People want hormones and surgery, because it gets us what we want. Radical feminists speak out against surgery even while putting more pressure on us to have it.

Surgery means that you do not have to take hormone suppressors, which have side effects. Sex can be difficult before surgery: people feel alienated from their genitals, and accepting after. I am a woman. At last, I can function as a woman. And now, when I feel that what surgery achieved for me was a sense of authenticity- I am truly a [trans] woman, because I have had surgery and take hormones- I accept that not everyone agrees, because the magic would not work if you understood it. People believe it proves they are real [trans] women, and makes them more likely to be accepted. I would rather get that sense of authenticity, and permission to express who I am without hiding, by some other means than the mutilation of my body.

I agree that hormones and surgery harm people, by making us sterile and by altering our hormone balance. My temperature regulation is poorer, and it may affect me in other ways. My emotions have been more labile. International human rights law says we should not have to be sterilised to get gender recognition.

For F-Ms, breast surgery, and hormones promoting beard growth, make us pass better. Even for M-Fs, hormones taken along with electrolysis produce a softening of the skin and perhaps an alteration in odours and pheromones, so we pass better. Passing is important if someone might be hostile. Though now it feels as if I am not noticed, not considered worthy of attention, rather than not read.

Walking with Drea- she exclaimed “Oh, he’s beautiful!” of a passer-by. I had not noticed the man, except to avoid collision. Then I heard someone introduce a man to her sister, and he said “Hello, it’s lovely to meet you!” in such a forceful yet warm way that I felt his personality reach out to envelop hers, and even mine- yet Drea did not notice. We pay attention to different things.

When a radical feminist tells me she can tolerate me in women’s toilets because I have had the operation, it reinforces the idea that surgery confirms our trans status. They talk of the danger of penises in women’s space, yet say that surgery is mutilation and wrong. It seems they want to have it both ways, excluding us and de-legitimising us. The effect is to increase our desperation for legitimacy, which we seek in surgery. Though we need to have it both ways- being accepted in women’s space, yet not needing surgery. You don’t need a penis altered to have sex, you just need to use it differently.

Then again I want it both ways- access to women’s space, no surgery required. There is so much anger and fear in the conversation, and some radical feminists feel a need to delegitimise us completely- we look like men however much we spend on facial feminisation surgery, we are a violent threat even after genital surgery- so that we will not be in their space. It’s the Principle of the thing. Yet however great the anger, we do not go away.

S objects to any body alteration, even shaving her legs or plucking facial hair. It is her body, she should not have to alter it or go through this long grooming process of make up, nail varnish, cleanse-tone-moisturise etc. It should be acceptable as it is. It may be that she wears clothes for practicality, though social signalling is unavoidable in the way we dress.

It’s not a useful conversation. “How can I be myself?” I ask. “NOT THAT WAY! GO AWAY!” some people yell, though others are accepting, and I feel wounded, even wronged. Though to see it from another point of view, a man in women’s space is objectionable and that is the wrong to be righted first. How might we meet each other without anger or fear?

Meeting a radical feminist

I really enjoyed meeting S. I like her. She is a vegan and life long peace campaigner, my kind of person. We met in the pub, and talked for over two hours. We agree on important things- the main problem is the Patriarchy, and there is no virtue, quality or characteristic shown by one sex which is not shown by the other, which is not equally good in both (even if there are differences in prevalence). We want a Labour government.

When I said, “My femininity is different from your femaleness,” she said, “Oh, that’s good,” and noted it down. That worried me. It could be used as a barb against trans women- and it is true; gender-critical feminists have noticed it before, and expressed it, perhaps, almost as elegantly. And if any used it, it would require them to admit my femininity. She also noted the words “zero-sum game”- I want a way we can work together for common goals despite our disagreements.

I said I do not want to be a symbol. If trans women are the proof of the erasure of women, then we are an existential threat, and must be opposed with all possible energy. Really we are a vanishingly small minority, and I hope could be seen as a tolerable anomaly.

I find her charming, articulate and intelligent. She is an attractive person, easy to like. We shared some personal things. And- for her, it’s personal. When Maria McLoughlin was struck in the face by a trans woman, S had intended to go to that meeting but had had to be somewhere else. It could have been her. I agree that there is no excuse for physical violence.

S tells of a camp for women and girls in Wales, ruined by a trans woman who had not even gone full time. They had communal washing without barriers, and the trans woman made others uncomfortable. She wore a mini-skirt, and was flashing: her penis was visible underneath. That trans woman ruined various women’s groups and lesbian groups locally, by demanding access: they did not want to risk the costs of a legal action, despite the exception in the Equality Act of “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. And yet the Soroptimists, a conservative group with many Tory ladies, has not been troubled.

“Do you say you are a lesbian?” she asked. I was silent. I do not want to deny it or confirm it. If I define my femininity- soft, seeking reconciliation, whatever- or claim to be lesbian I open myself for judgment: it is not true, or it is weakness rather than softness. That judgment raises self-phobic echoes in my own heart.

She has always worked in the arts, had an LGB group which related over issues of sexuality and thought T was a qualitatively different thing, and did not want to admit the T. She lost a job over not sufficiently including T. She resents that allegations of “transphobia” are bandied around when someone disagrees with part of the trans agenda. I do not find her phobic. I discern no hate or fear in her. And, transphobia exists.

I should not underestimate her commitment to the cause, her personal involvement, or her principled stand. I should not imagine that my charm will instantly win her over to my side. And, we met, in a friendly way, and talked, and might find a way forward, to win over some people on both sides. Non-binary spaces may be part of that: she had not heard the word until two years ago, and it is catching on among service providers.

S says when she was in Holland men were far less restricted by masculine norms, and she found that far more attractive, and even in Poland on a peace march she had met a man at ease outside conventional masculinity. Restrictive gender norms are the main problem.

Just one of my problems is that I do not speak for trans women. I might be happy to be lumped in with non-binary, but others feel it is a distinct identity. That is, I feel all of these identities are moulded by culture, but others emphasise the internal reality, the human nature as a thing in itself. Yet I feel there has to be dialogue across this divide, and I want to be part of it. I would like, if she is willing, to work with her to find a way forward.

Trans women: symbol and problem

Why do people care so much about trans folk? There are so few of us, we should be an anomaly, barely worthy of mention. We are harmless, so we should not be actively persecuted. People care, because we symbolise for them far more important concerns.

Ideally we symbolise the move towards a progressive, tolerant society. People enthusiastically say “Trans women are women!” because that shows they are liberal, against oppression, in favour of diversity and equality and people being welcomed for our gifts not judged for our idiosyncrasies. That can sometimes start a culture war. Mr Trump does not want trans people in the military, against military advice, because he wants to cast the “Liberal elite” as the enemies of his conservative base. To the just about managing, he says, They do not care about you! They care about those weirdos more than decent people like you! I care about you! The military wastes so much money that a few gender reassignment surgeries would be a drop in the ocean, and the issue should not really matter as a question of social policy, but instead it is a symbol: virtue-signalling of the Right as well as the Left. The Right claim virtue in policing what people do with our genitals. It is also a symbol that winds up liberals.

The A Woman’s Place and We Need to Talk tours use us as a symbol of the Patriarchy and the oppression of women. I have very little power to oppress anyone. I buy my clothes in charity shops so am not even, directly, part of the oppression of sweat-shop workers. Pigs live in appalling conditions because of me; but I do not harm a woman who sees me in a woman’s loo. I am only objectionable there if I am a symbol of sex inequality, of women having to put others’ feelings before their own, of a snub on them imposed by uncaring society.

I would like us to be seen as a symbol of how wide the range of gendered behaviour is, and how ridiculous gender restrictions are. We are then helping to break down gendered expectations. That we symbolise the breaking of taboos is good and bad for us. Things may be spoken about, because we exist. Shame drains away. And, we are the visible symbol of a reservoir of fear in society, and people’s hearts.

A friend said on facebook, women see men as a threat, some men see women as objects to be possessed. That means I may be seen as  threatening even if I am not.

I want us to be a harmless anomaly, too few people to worry about, which would be a rational view. If we are not, what is the problem, exactly? How you express the problem of trans people affects what you do. I think the problem is people paying us too much attention, and the solution is for the press to stop printing stories of a man being invited for a cervical smear test, because he adopted the title “Mx”, or a trans woman being sent to take smears. The NHS does millions of smear tests, and probably makes thousands of mistakes. The problem is trans people being nervous and frightened, or being attacked, and the solution is to protect us.

If you see the problem as “men in women’s toilets” we are in conflict. There is no solution to please all. But if it is, The Patriarchy, most solutions- campaigning for equal pay and equal representation, against sexual harassment- ignore us completely. Go and work on those. If the problem is, how can a wider range of gendered behaviour be made acceptable in both sexes, we can have a dialogue. I feel most people see trans folk as gender outlaws, rather than conformists.

I would phrase it, how can people with such similar problems, gender non-conforming, non-binary and trans, work together for the liberation of all? You are part of the same minority, not competing groups. How can we see below our surface differences to our real shared interests?