The male gaze and trans women

We are animals, and pay attention to others we do not know with our most basic drives- are they threat, prey or sex-object? Seeing the person as a sex-object, only interesting as a potential partner rather than a whole human being with gifts and qualities, is the basis of the objection to the “male gaze” at women, in films and television. Women are devalued and objectified.

If we are sex-object, that may be a threat, as trans panic defences are still argued. In Gwen Araujo’s first trial, the jury deadlocked: the murderers had had intimate relations with their victim, and claimed that when they found she had a penis they “flew into a rage” or “shock provoked them into a heat of passion” fitting manslaughter not murder. The defence is based on “dominant norms of hegemonic masculinity” and so harmful; but people still think that. A conviction is no compensation to the victim.

But we may also be seen as prey, as a matter of sexual competition. The hegemonic male sees the trans woman as an inadequate man, and proves his own manliness (to himself, at any rate) by humiliating her. That pointed scrutiny may indicate a man about to bully you.

In film and TV, however, trans women are not the victim of this as younger cis women are. Feminists complain that female actors are portrayed for the pleasure of the male viewer. Trans characters tend to be portrayed sympathetically. Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl is an interesting character in an interesting situation, not a sex object or a matter for derision: she is portrayed as embarrassed and frightened at being seen, and as a victim (when dressed male) of gay bashers.

This is a blog, not a news site. Often I think things through as I type here.

That scene. Yes, it happens, that people are read as gay and victimised. We might object to the story- we don’t want just to be seen as victims having a ghastly time, but as people making our way in the world. Watching the scene, I saw what was going on before Lili starts to flee. Is that because of the way the camera dwells on her? Or the muggers? Or the music- there are ways to portray such a thing. I feel the audience’s sympathy would be with Lili, and the film-makers’, as well-

I don’t feel anyone who would want to see the film would think “Good, the pervert got what was coming”. And- now I have the concept of the “gaze”, I wonder whether there is something objectionable.

What of Maxine Conway in Wentworth Prison? There are main characters which are more or less sympathetic, and Maxine is allied with the more sympathetic ones. She is large, with a male figure: the makers chose a character who was obviously trans. Well, many of us are, and how can I say that does not make me ridiculous while complaining at Maxine being ridiculed just for that?

I am not here making a clear distinction between gaze, the way the camera dwells on an actor, and the whole way we tell stories about trans people. I never watched Boy meets Girl, but it is comedy about a man and a trans woman being romantically involved, starring a trans woman. The Daily Mail hated it, as an instruction manual about what to say, think and feel about sex changes. The trans woman gets read, but those who don’t sympathise with trans women won’t like the show.

Can the viewer identify with a character? There are so many action films where we are invited to identify with a male action hero, Jason Bourne or John McClane. In The Danish Girl it seems easier to identify with Gerda Wegener, Lili’s wife.

I was asked about this one. I am not a film critic, but have an eye for composition. What do you think?

Reporting on trans

There you are on Sunday morning, a bit hung over, slumped in front of the telly, and The Sunday Politics starts reporting about trans people. The link is live until 16 April, the report starts at 28.30.

The host, Sarah Smith, starts by telling us that the Government had backed calls to simplify the gender recognition process, but the consultation has been delayed. Then there is a film, which starts promisingly with Heather Peto, who wants to be one of the first trans MPs. “I’ve always been a woman,” she says. The best candidates will always get through, so trans women on all women shortlists (AWS) is not an issue. The anti-trans lobby make it an issue.

The reporter says Labour has always welcomed trans women, self-identified, on AWS, but this is recently under attack. “Enter the self-described radical feminists.” I like the parallel, though I accept their self-identification, as a return to the theoretical roots of feminism has value and meaning.

Venice Allen, self-publicist, says she has tried to meet Jeremy Corbyn about this. She refers to “trans-identifying men” and calls Heather Peto “he”.

Reporter- Labour delayed announcing its position on AWS after being told that over two hundred female members would resign. There’s a clip from Theresa May speaking at the Pink News awards, promising to update the Gender Recognition Act by no longer requiring a medical diagnosis. Trans “is not an illness and should not be treated as such”. But that was in October, and we still don’t have the consultation. The Governement told the programme that “the consultation will be published in due course”- sometime, never.

James Kirkup of the Spectator is next, a hard right ideologue calling himself a “journalist”, hating diversity and the Labour Party. He says, I am a journalist, I know politicians who have questions about this, who have doubts about this, who don’t dare express those doubts, raise those messages, because they are worried that if they do they will be screamed at they will be accused of bigotry, transphobia, simply for asking questions. The vicious, powerful trans lobby is a Threat! How, James?

There are questions about access to safe spaces for women, domestic violence refuges, there are questions about the collection and collation of statistics on crime, on pay, there are questions that should be asked, debated, discussed and answered. No, there aren’t. Rape Crisis supports trans inclusion, and a few thousand people will not meaningfully affect statistics. On pay, we get paid less than other women.

Heather gets the last word: I have the self confidence that I am a woman and always have been and people should just accept me for that. Fair enough- but it’s two strongly anti-trans campaigners, and one trans woman to answer them.

Back to the studio. Sarah Smith says it seems the Labour Party’s got itself in a terrible tangle here.

Matt Zarb-Cousin, former adviser to Jeremy Corbyn, says it’s just seeking a form of words that trans women are eligible for AWS. He’s minimising the problem in the Labour party.

Isabel Oakeshott, Tory journalist, says there are probably less than five trans women applying to AWS. It must be difficult to be trans, she would not disparage that, but so much energy should not be going into the debate. Then the kick at Labour- “It would be simpler not to have AWS and select the candidates who are the best for the job”. Do we really need to explain why AWS are necessary? Women don’t come forward, all people favour less capable men.

Lucy Fisher of the Times, who has published articles fomenting the dispute, says Labour jumped the gun by accepting trans women on AWS and as women’s officers. The radical feminists are asking to be heard.

Oakeshott: It is more complex and sensitive than gay marriage. It is so easy to get the language wrong. There will be many people against self-ID in the Tory party.

Zarb-Cousin says 2-3000 women resigning- I hope he’s out by a factor of ten- would be a rounding error.

Oakeshott says the process of gender recognition can be streamlined, as was done in Ireland, Malta, Argentina and Columbia. So, surprisingly, the Tory is neutral to in favour of us, the Labour commentator is minimising the issue, and there were three people strongly against.

Has the hung-over viewer who does not know or care about trans learned anything? That there is a dispute about all-women shortlists, and that some people are angrily against trans people. They have heard a trans woman talk about always having been a woman, and three others alleging there are serious problems, including with angry trans activists and women’s safety. The BBC gives these people a voice, and we are painted as violent and dangerous. Our vulnerability is slightly greater after the report than before.

On Thursday, The Today Programme weighed in. It likes to have strongly opposed views, combatively expressed. The link is live until 19 April, and the report starts at 2.38.40. Emily Brothers, Labour’s first openly trans candidate, came over as reasonable, defending the status quo, which Lucy Masood of the Fire Brigades Union attacked. She had far more of the time, and mocked and denigrated trans women. Opening up shortlists to men simply because they feel like women whether or not they have had a sex change or not would be a huge step backmen will wake up one day and declare I am a woman… women are threatened and attacked…

As Emily said, that is ridiculous and transphobic, but the more people get the chance to say that, the more they will grab the chance to be nasty to us.

Confident, not confident

With LĂ©ne to Nupton, to start the Queer Trans Inclusion Partnership. She drove me down, and we compared notes over lunch in a pub. I learned that the shy, silent types we want to get talking are not called “difficult to reach” as they were when I was delivering services, but “seldom heard”. That changes the phrase from the perspective of the service provider to a global perspective, as when someone is not heard that is a problem for everyone.

We gave a talk for about half an hour. I wanted to say how self-declaration made no difference from the current position for the wider community: only people committed to transition will seek gender recognition. I spoke almost without notes. I quoted Scottish Women’s Aid in our support. I can speak confidently. On a platform, I have a role, which I play well.

And then we discussed things as a group. Only eleven turned up, three trans and several others gay. How to include trans people? A woman at the STD clinic said that her rainbow lanyard won the trust of LGBT folks. Was there something else needed for trans? I felt that a rainbow would do. Someone felt a trans flag, blue pink white pink blue, would be better. It will cost a bit to get NHS printed on the lanyards, and other people have expressed an interest, so a decision would be good. I don’t want to require a different symbol for trans. Someone did, and I wanted to shut them up but went silent.

I would not have read –, but he talked of his trans experience. He wanted to know how to engage older trans folk- he is 23. On his website, he has soundcloud interviews showing the change of his voice over the last year on T. Now he has facial hair, he seems a gentle, charming, alert young man, in rainbow braces.

possibly the hairline, round over the temples, is feminine-

I would have read — even without the context. She has a professional job within a large company, and is their trans face to the world and within the company. We went for a drink, after. We have made a good start. And I have judged them, perhaps as a way of showing trans is not safe, to my own satisfaction. I am better off reclusive as I am. It was Friday evening, and blokes came to the pub from the office. I am uneasy with them swearing so loudly. The pint of “Black Hole” tastes weird. “Black Sheep” at lunchtime was unusually bitter and hoppy, but clearly fresh. I try drinking my pint and ignoring the taste, but eventually take it back to the bar, where the man agrees to change it for Black Sheep. Why would he not? He wants to keep the customers happy. And, if he refused my trying to be overbearing would be useless, what with the bouncers on the door. I am still pleased I asked.

There’s a new drama on the telly, Love, Lies and Records. It is set in a registry office, and has a number of ridiculous plot lines, as if taken from lurid weekly women’s true life magazines like Chat, Yours or Take a Break. None are believeable, and only Rebecca Front as the villain, whose ambition to be supervising registrar has been thwarted, is watchable, but it has a character announce she will be “coming to the office dressed as a woman” from the following week. She is gormless but mostly harmless. She is promptly thrown out by her wife, the mother of her children, and cadges a bed from the big-hearted heroine. Her beard stubble is showing in the morning as she makes up. What would the target audience think? At best they would see her as harmless and she would win sympathy. Surely she would not arouse fear, though possibly disgust. But I want role-models on the telly, not people having a crap time. And it’s not about the clothes, not really. After deadnaming her, the villain says “It’ll take me some time to get used to it,” clearly never intending to.

Whisky, newly distilled

I drew myself as the Sun, shining. The words in my mind were Strength, Beauty, Right: I am right, righteous, I have rights, I am rightly made. This is the world I evolved in, and I fit it. Now I cannot understand the notes I took, but it was something about being the cat which low status people choose to kick: I imagine that poor transphobe thinking, “I may be going to prison but at least I’m not a pervert like that.” His attack comes from his own need, because he cannot see me as I am, only as he has been taught to see me, as a way of controlling any effeminacy in him. Because it is not about me, his attack need not affect me. I can let it go.

All my emotions are Right, or Appropriate. They are not always comfortable (here I am moving from appreciation to judgment- comfortable only for the ego, not the real self).

I trust what comes up in myself.
I trust what comes up in the World.
I do not have all the answers, but I have the ability to find them.

It is whisky, newly distilled, the first fire of it. Seeing my God-self is wonderful, and I need to learn to be comfortable in my new skin. I will reach a mature appreciation, different from this amazed delight. And it is True. I am Right, and I need merely appreciate that. That was two weeks ago, and I am building on it.

It was at Yearly Meeting Gathering, the Experiment with Light. I saw myself as God made me, beautiful and Right, without the ego-self which one creates to try to survive. Now, since then, I am seeing that ego-self more clearly, clutching its filthy rags about itself, and how poorly it serves me.

Also at YMG was a Singalong showing of Frozen. “How can she be seen as some sort of Feminist icon, with those big eyes and hair and princess dress?” she asked, and I thought, meet us half way. Those are not ideal, but seeing her characteristic which everyone else has seen as a curse, accepting it and rejecting their judgment, is strong and beautiful.

It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
I’m free!

“That perfect girl is gone”- how we are taught to idolise the ego-self, which is never “perfect”, but enslaving. She has some self-doubt, wanting to do the right thing, willing to self-sacrifice rather than hurt, so inhibited from fighting back. And (spoilers) the act of true love which saves the younger princess is not True Love’s Kiss by the Prince, who turns out to be a bad lot, but an act of bravely defending her sister.

I love Top of the Lake- China Girl. Episode 4 shows how Puss, the egocentric, psychotic parasite, has enslaved Mary. She loves him, completely. He has first charmed and flattered her, fooling her into seeing him as an intellectual with an understanding of her parents’ hypocrisies by mocking them; he has convinced her that the prostitutes are somehow in the “Real World” which her parents avoid, so appealing to her teenage idealism. With mature adults he can only be a disgusting jester, his pretensions seen through, so he preys on a teenager. He rewards her servility with kindness or kisses, a facsimile of Love, and as he has reeled her in he gives less and she, desperately, gives more.

I believe in his power to degrade her. She feels he is wise, teaching her about life, and so tolerates being more and more humiliated. He says “I am going to hit you in the face” and does so, and such is his power that she almost accepts even that. I hope with the failed blow job she has realised how poisonous he is; she needed to reach rock bottom before realising that, because she now thinks herself a fool for being reeled in by him, and few people could admit that to themselves easily.

How happy I felt when you said my song was “fantastic”! And after, when you dismissed my verses, I only recited more, desperate to be affirmed again. You are no psychopath. I love your bravery, intelligence, courage, fierceness, how you can feel such fear and do it anyway. Knowing you enriches me. I don’t think you reeled me in, or have wronged me in any way; it is my own response to you. I felt it when I first saw you, so I would have to control how you walk into a room if I thought you really had wronged me, and if I controlled you you would be nothing, rather than the glorious human being you are. You used me as a confidant, making me feel valued- it is an exchange, I like to feel my listening reduces pain. And you will never meet me half way. Trans men, “biological females,” are victims. How awful that she felt she had to cut off her breasts to escape the prison of femininity. Trans women, biological males, are perverted exhibitionists, getting a sexual thrill from fooling others into thinking we are women. So you say. I cannot be a victim, only a perpetrator, for you, as a biological male, even though you claim toxic masculinity oppresses all men. You loathe my performed femininity, that way I curve my hand, though none of this is conscious. To me, it seems it is just me. Still, I tried to please you.

I am continually surprised. How can you not appreciate me? Well, you don’t. The arrogance in me made me continually expect better, and my low self-esteem, the flip side of my arrogance, made me accept the taunts. Only seeing Mary weeping in her birth-mother’s arms, surely having finally realised how damaging Puss is for her and what a fool she has been, or what a human she has been, so different from her conception of herself-

She weeps and escapes. I must follow her example.


Anyone who watches thrillers sees a lot of torture scenes, on film or TV. This is a good thing, enabling writers to examine characters under duress, and real confrontations in a fantasy setting. I don’t watch the kind of drama where it is merely for shock value. My first was in Genesis of the Daleks, when I was eight. It is played straight: the Doctor is interrogated, while his companions are strapped to a machine which induces pain. Shortly after I saw my first satirised torture scene, the Vogon poetry reading.

People confront each other in real life all the time. Sometimes, one desires to crush the other- sometimes they succeed. You can be in a position where backing off or running away is impossible. Instruments of torture make the cruelty and destructiveness explicit, and often there is a consoling ending: the character tortured recovers. The torture scene enables us to contemplate such encounters at a safe distance, before we meet them in real life.

In Casino Royale (2006), James Bond is whipped in the testicles. He responds by acting as if the pain is some benefit. This is a useful technique with pain, to see good coming of it, which makes epilation easier. And the Hero, as always, refuses to back down or give up, though his situation appears hopeless- I love such stories, of human beings overcoming all odds, they are reassuring. My radical feminist friend loathes men’s action movies, where the Hero is in a series of unlikely situations, achieving his goals by shooting or beating up a series of mooks, getting away when the chasers crash and burn, etc. Well, they can be samey, they have a small repertoire of scenes, but there can be humour and creativity in the execution, just as Burns did so much with Standard Habbie.

Maybe I do watch for shock value.

In The Transporter TV series, there is a woman who threatens to remove fingers with secateurs, smiling delightedly as if she loves the game of it. The amputations happen off screen, but the fantasy element of it- I giggle nervously, and say “Ooh! Gross!“- is a way of distancing the viewer from the situation, enabling us to approach destructive confrontation. It is like a lurid, brightly coloured cartoon, showing a real facial expression.

In Versailles, M. Marchal usually kills his victims. He is the quiet, imperturbable policeman, getting on with the job, doing what he needs to do to preserve his master’s rule. I loved defiance in some, and the abject terror of the Chevalier de Lorraine, who was not chastened after, at all. People, confronting an irresistible force, not backing down.

In Cardinal, there is some exploration as to why the torturer might want to torture another. Why does he induct his apprentice? He says, because once she has done this no-one will be able to oppress her. He enjoys the teacher’s role, getting her to stand in the middle of the road with her arms out and legs spread. Make yourself as big as possible. His teaching works- she graduates to cutting off a finger with secateurs. Cardinal is full of people whose jobs do not use their talents- the torturer is just one such. Some resent it and act up, in self-destructive ways; Cardinal himself, the detective, just gets on with the job.

I was sitting in the yard when a kite flew overhead, and I saw its action silhouetted against the sun. A haiku:

Red kite nibbles at
the morsel in its talons
adjusts tail, flies on

Integrating the self

I have not spoken to my counsellor for over a month, so have a lot of material to work with. I tell her of my dispute with Quakers, lunch with my friend, my holiday.

-I did a little light bullying.
-I don’t think anyone has ever said something like that to me. “How was your holiday?” “Oh, I did a little light bullying.”

I worked quite hard to make sure my friend had as good a holiday as possible, and when I could not find a way threw my weight around to make sure I got what I wanted from it. In particular I was not going to do boring things because conventionally they are supposed to be fun, especially as my companions had such limited ideas of what those were. And because he values my company so much, my friend has to take a certain amount of shit from me.

-You are very hard on yourself.

Yes. “Bullying” and “giving shit” are harsh words for me. I was kind. I was reasonably self-assertive. I was as creative as I could be. My judgment of myself is harsh, and I am allowing the judgment and trying to stop it preventing me doing what I want. Bullying is wrong. My inner critic calls my action bullying, yet I do it anyway. In unsatisfactory circumstances I am happy enough with my conduct.

At one point we reach a stop, and she says she has a question. Fire away.

-You said your internal policeman tasered you for not being sufficiently manly. Did he not get the memo?

We laugh. Apparently not. It is good to be conscious of him, though, rather than just being paralysed. I love the way I make her laugh. I am telling my stories as elegantly and quickly as I can, wanting to get the meaning over, but enjoying how I word them well.

Before lunch, H told me a coat would look good on me. I am playing control games. I like them. If that is her controlling me- what does that do for me? It is what I want. It gives me a sense of connection.

-Would you have bought the coat yourself?
-No. Never. But I love it.
-So she is appreciating a part of you which is usually silent, and giving it a voice.

I am addicted to attention. Or at least that is approaching the truth, one facet of it.
-You are being attractive, and valuing that.
-Crying in public could be that addiction. Yet it seems to me that when I cry my unconscious communicates to my conscious how strong my feeling is, and if I can fully accept my depth of feeling I need not show external symptoms. That can be useful.

She does not demur to that.

I have known I am screwed up and at war with myself all my adult life. I am closer to finding the cause of that than I have ever been, and to finding ways round it. My father was feminine, my mother liked that, they both knew it was utterly shameful and no-one must ever find out. I had one honest conversation with my father about it, three months before he died.

This is my work. It is intensely valuable, because I am valuable.

Being controlled, and passive. My best experience of sex so far was with a man who let me lie back, doing nothing, and with gentleness, empathy and generosity opened me up. I was curled up and self-protective, and he got me to open myself to him. He licked me out. “You taste Goood,” he said. I want to do none of the work, and be accepted.

Bullying. It is a harsh judgment. I am crying.

She says it is difficult to integrate the self when it is so repressed. At her request, I show her my yellow coat. It is very yellow.

We arrange another appointment, and then I watch Star Trek Deep Space Nine. I like it. It is decades-old SF entertainment for teenagers, and I still like it. It is beautifully done. I pause it to think.

Do I need it to be in some way objectively good, before I am allowed- can allow myself- to like it? Now I am weeping hard. NO! I like it! Yet this is an exceptionally good episode, ep 3/7, “Civil Defense”. I love the clever ways they come up with to reduce the threat, always making it worse until the end. I love the way the characters respond in ways like themselves: Quark and Odo flirt together beautifully, subtly showing their regard and care for each other as they bicker. It is funny. At the end, there is surely the tiredest clichĂ©- the computer counts down the seconds to Self Destruct- and the tension of it grips me. I love their heroism: continually knocked back, everyone keeps buggering on. I loved the sense of the characters, and see it is the only DS9 writing credit of Mike Krohn- his only other credit is one TV movie, Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct: Lightning. I may watch that episode again, however ridiculous the whole world might find such a complete waste of time.

Rules for survival

How might we survive the new world order? In the UK, we are six months ahead into the darkness the US is entering.

Maria Alexandrovna Gessen would know, having lived under Mr Putin, and left Russia in 2013 because she feared as a lesbian that her adopted son would be taken from her. The day after the election, she wrote her rules.

1. Believe the autocrat, when he says something ridiculous or vile. He may lie as he will, pretending to consider more sensible views. He met Mr Gore before appointing Mr Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. He met Mr Romney before appointing Mr Tillerson. He was playing with you. Yes, he means to lock her up. He will twist judicial appointments to that end.

2. Do not be taken in by small signs of normality. The world has not ended, and life proceeds; but calamitous change has begun.

3. Institutions will not save you. Trump will work to undermine and control them. Honest journalists will lose access.

4. Be outraged. Maintain your capacity for shock. There are some things which people do better together, through government, than by unaccountable and opaque foreign companies. In the UK market fundamentalism rules, seeking support from Nationalist stoking of hatred of minorities and foreigners- winning support through nostalgia for strong civil society even as it uses its power to destroy it. Probation services should be carried out impartially by the state, as rehabilitation is too important for the grasping incompetence of MTC. The sell-off continues.

5. Don’t make compromises. Trump will corrupt all who work for him.

6. Remember the future. Resistance—stubborn, uncompromising, outraged—should be normal.

The Electoral College will not save you. All those minor Republican electors will vote for Mr Trump, or enough for him to have a majority, despite Alexander Hamilton’s hope in [people] most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. They will not vote for Mrs Clinton, and if enough deserted Trump it would be for the House of Representatives to select a president.

TV drama gives a lead. There is the charmless, endless NCIS, in which the police, trusted authority figures, find awful criminals and put them away; but three new shows seem more realistic. We have seen two episodes of This is us in the UK, and it seemed to me to have sweet outcomes while raising subjects which could end very very badly. Spoilers for those episodes. A woman tells her husband to stop drinking. He does so, because he loves her. A man finds his father, who abandoned him as a baby. He wants to say “screw you” and storm off, but instead invites the man into his home. The father spends all day away- he could be drinking or taking drugs, but instead he is feeding his cat. In each case we get the happy outcome where Love wins, and are left to imagine how bad it could have been. Timeless is hokum, in which a woman is told she has to save humanity by going back in time to thwart a master-criminal who wishes to change the timeline. It could be the good guys, authority figures, a government agency and a billionaire tech genius, saving the world, but already there is moral ambiguity. Already we see we cannot trust them.

And Class, a children’s spin-off from Doctor Who, already shown in Britain Canada and Australia, to be shown by BBC America, has teenagers saving the World, but it’s a darker, stranger world than children’s programmes when I was a bairn. The authority figures, teachers, are not trustworthy, and anyone can die.

Drama matters as part of the national conversation, affecting how we see events. Powerless despite our facebook grousing, I find some hope in dismantling trust. We have to look out for each other.

Masha Gessen.

Knowing nothing

I know nothing.

The Rabbi was in the square when the Cossack shouted at him, “Hey! Rabbi! Where’re you going!”

The Rabbi responded, “I don’t know”.

The Cossack got angry. “You’re trying to make a fool of me. It won’t work. You always go to the synagogue at this time. I’ll show you you can’t make a fool of me. You’re coming to the lock-up.”

In the lock-up, the Rabbi said to the Cossack, “You asked me where I was going, and I did not know.”

On my facebook feed I can find an understanding of Mr Trump. He is casually corrupt; he has forgotten any number of campaign promises already- the wall, in many places, will just be a fence, and he is not going to torture suspected terrorists; and he appoints dreadful people to his cabinet, including the racist Steve Bannon, the racist Jeff Sessions, and the climate denialist Myron Ebell. He threatens the end of the Republic as a functioning democracy, and may be a kleptocrat as formerly seen in the Philippines and Nigeria. We must be saved from him, by the Electoral College whose purpose is to prevent demagogues (rather than to give a disproportionately large voice to smaller states) or by Jill Stein’s recounts, though no recount has ever overturned such a large majority.

Unfortunately, other people simply do not recognise this. Lots of people are inspired by hope in him and what he will achieve.

“NW” by Zadie Smith is an angry novel. (I saw the TV dramatisation.) Keisha from the council estate works hard, goes to university, and becomes barrister Natalie, effortless dinner party hostess. She is instructed, not to represent the prosecution but merely to appear as a black barrister in the prosecution of a black man, before a black jury. She downloads a hookup app, and sexually humiliates random men. She stands on the parapet of a bridge over a busy road. An old friend begs her to come down, then walks off, loathing her. In the end she goes back to her childhood best friend, who has not had such a career, who is white, and they slump on a hammock. I was reminded, she cannot be colour-blind, she is always aware of skin colour and its social effect. It is chaotic and episodic, not just the happy story of a woman succeeding against all the odds.

The Investigatory Powers Bill requires every ISP to keep our Histories for a year, to surrender on demand to any number of government agencies, including the Department for Work and Pensions. No doubt the DWP could disqualify any number of benefit cheats, requiring them to pay back any money paid to them, on the basis that their internet practices were inconsistent with being unfit for work, or their eBay activities showed them to be self-employed traders, a conclusion to be applauded by the Daily Mail. Any number of criminals could be unmasked. Religious extremists may also be caught. Parliament Must Debate the Investigatory Powers Bill Again, said HuffPo. It has been passed by Commons and Lords. Perhaps the Queen will save us from it- as much chance as Jill Stein’s recounts.

from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. I find this verse unpleasant to contemplate. I know I am alright for the moment. What I have, perhaps, is false hope.


Looking good

I am proud of this photograph.


I looked good. These were the glamorous photographs, with studio make-up, that helped me to see I could look feminine. I fitted conventional thoughts of beauty at the time. The photographer worked to make me comfortable and relaxed. Having your portrait done is a lovely experience.


This one is not too bad either. I used the timer on my camera. I like the surroundings, the quizzical look, the hair and clothes are OK. I like my face. It is more lined than it was twenty years ago, and lines add character.

This programme on image is fascinating. An artist with very short limbs and a fashion photographer took pictures of people who disliked their appearance, and made them look beautiful. One had all her hair fall out when she was eleven, and he made her feel feminine and attractive for the first time, without her wig. One had lost his left leg in an accident, and he looks fine, standing tall on his prosthesis. One had body dysmorphic disorder. She finds the sight of her face unbearable, though she looks pretty enough to me, to the photographer, and to her mother. Her beautiful portrait still did not satisfy her, she still hated how she looked. Having seen herself as beautiful, bald, the other could go out without her wig for the first time.

The first two are physical issues. Hairlessness is not how a woman should be. Limblessness is not how a person should be. Yet- it has to do with thinking positively or negatively. Thinking negatively, I perceive a lack, which is distressing. Thinking positively, I perceive a person with strengths and beauties, and the lack will not vitiate that. That is not to say, the lack does not matter; but that it is not the only important thing. Mourn, accept, move on; recognise everything that is good.

It is OK to be a woman who is bald. She has such beautiful cheekbones. It is OK to be you, just the way you are. Let us celebrate your strengths. Alison Lapper’s ways of getting around in a motorised wheelchair and adapted car- far more expensive than Motability would ever have paid for- overcome her limitations, and let us celebrate the creativity which lets her transcend.

I don’t know whether there are “real” trans women who simply are women, in some way different from me, who would transition even if there were no differences at all in gender roles and expectations apart from the physical reproductive system. That some people might assert that they are does not reduce my uncertainty. For me, it feels that it was not OK to be me as a man, but it was OK to be me, expressing myself female. This Celebrate Yourself gospel pains me, because I could not- so I made the changes so that I could, and am now told they were unnecessary? It had felt that I was not acting, expressing myself female, and now the wig feels like an act; though returning were as tedious as go o’er.

I cycled into Swanston this morning to shop. It drizzled a bit as I went there, and one puddle stretched almost the width of the road. It seemed the cars were not giving me as much space, when passing- the Highway Code says 1.5m, or five feet, is the necessary gap. I hate that scuzzy old waterproof jacket. The fruit stall was not in its usual place, and there was no fruit on the market. As it was raining when I got to the supermarket, I went inside before putting on my wig: I am self-conscious about that, no matter what Alison Lapper says about the beauty of baldness, or my refusal to skulk about changing in lavatories. If I had money, it would have been different. I would be in better clothes, dry, having got out of a car, my wig presentable having been sheltered by an umbrella. The coward slave, we pass him by- I loathe looking poor, and my shame for once seems related to reality. The self-checkout machine did not recognise the weight of the tuna, and I slammed the tins down on the scale then was rude to the assistant. I hate that unavoidable irritations move me to rudeness and violence. Then I pedalled home, telling myself- the weather is good, on the whole. The rain is light. The wind is behind me.

And- that beautiful photograph can still comfort me. I am a beautiful person.