The Council of Europe condemns transphobia in Britain

The Council of Europe condemns “toxic” transphobia in the UK.

Since 1949, the CoE has upheld human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe. Britain is a founder member. It now has 46 members: the Russian Federation was expelled after invading Ukraine. The Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, visited the UK this Summer, met young trans people as well as politicians and civil servants, and condemned “an increasingly toxic discourse against trans people” here.

Her report (pdf) is written in diplomatic jargon but is still hard-hitting. I have had to translate parts of it.

She found the stories trans people told of intolerance, discrimination and violence “harrowing”. The media reports a great deal on trans, focusing on questionable allegations that we are dangerous, or that the rights we seek to live our lives quietly are dangerous. She quotes the CoE Parliamentary Assembly resolution condemning highly prejudicial “gender critical” and anti-trans narratives. The UN Expert said the press assumes “predatory determinism”- trans are dangerous by nature. Press and politicians frequently assert we are a threat. When we speak up for our human rights or even just talk about our lives, this is called “gender ideology”, a bad, dangerous thing. MPs and government ministers should oppose this slander, but instead spread it. Some politicians seek to get votes out of anti-trans hate, she says. So, the LGBT+ community does not trust the government.

The government and media claim trans rights are incompatible with women’s rights or LGB rights. The Commissioner says this is false. Trans women and cis women “have a shared experience of prejudice, gender inequality, harmful stereotyping, and … violence”. The government and media attempts to provoke conflict make it more difficult to support human rights generally. There is no evidence we are a threat.

She notes that in 2018 the Tory government recognised gender recognition procedures were “intrusive, costly, humiliating and administratively burdensome” and “perpetuate[d] the outdated and false assumption that being trans is a mental illness.” She says there are barriers to legal gender recognition and they should be removed. The World Health Organisation confirms trans is not a mental illness. The English gender recognition process still requires a psychiatric report, and that is stigmatising. It causes human rights violations. We need self-determination, say the CoE and UN: we know who we are. Nine countries have self-determination for trans people, and there is no evidence that the procedure is misused or infringes others’ rights.

The Commissioner fears the media and political attacks on trans people will weaken our legal protection in the Equality Act. Trans people suffer frequent discrimination, she says. Politicians and media constantly claiming a Trans Threat pressures organisations to exclude trans people.

Kemi Badenoch, minister for Equalities, has decided not to proceed with a conversion therapy ban. The commissioner condemns this. She says conversion practices inflict severe pain and suffering, even long-lasting psychological and physical damage.

She recommends:

Politicians should stop saying trans people are a threat, and refute allegations in the media that we are dangerous.

Children should have comprehensive relationships and sexuality education including about the existence of LGBT+ people.

The government should combat intolerance, discrimination and hate crime.

The government should rebuild trust with LGBT+ community and organisations like Stonewall and the LGBT Foundation.

There should be “quick, transparent and accessible” gender recognition, self-determined, not obstructed by psychiatric gate-keeping.

Trans exclusion should be exceptional, only occurring when justified by “concrete, objective facts”. Normally, we should be included by services and society. We know those “concrete, objective facts” are unicorns, never observed by objective investigators.

There should be a comprehensive ban on conversion practices, including attempts to convert trans people. She does not mention the government’s assertion that there is conversion from cis to trans, because it is ridiculous.

It’s sad this has to be said. But the European human rights body Winston Churchill campaigned to create has utterly condemned the British government and large parts of our news media.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission welcomes her report, in particular her call for self-determination of trans gender recognition. They said hostility to trans rights affects women’s rights. Sadly, I could not find a similar statement from the EHRC.

Trans people exist

Trans people exist. It’s a simple point, but very hard to convince the anti-trans campaigners. How would you feel if a priest said to you, “I’m glad you are here. Please come say hello; I would love to hear more about your perspective and experience”? It might be enough for a Christian trans person to feel welcome, and want to join that community. It is what we know. But it is gaslighting: the theology professor suggesting it wants the priest to convince the trans person of the “Catholic understanding of reality”.

Her explanation of that reality is crude. She actually relies on Genesis: sexual difference as fixed and God-given. But she thinks she is being inclusive, and approaching trans people “with a spirit of generous curiosity: What truth will I find here?”

The problem is she believes in “gender theory”. We are not trans, really: we simply have false beliefs. Now I get that completely. I believe I am a woman, and many say I am not. Surely I could be persuaded otherwise? Or, I want to be a woman, but could be told that is impossible?

The point of being trans is that persuasion does not work. Tell me that someone born with testicles, a Y chromosome and a penis is not a woman, and I redefine the word “woman”. I understand why the denier might believe that. It makes a certain sort of sense. But I still believe I am a woman. I still want to be a woman.

Trans people exist. Trans women are people born with testicles who want to be women or believe they are women, who desire to transition and so do that. Before I transitioned, I really wanted to believe that I was “not really trans” and therefore should not transition, and I wanted to get rid of the desire, which because of internalised transphobia I thought repellent and ridiculous. But I failed. So I transitioned, and twenty years later am still transitioned.

Trans people exist. We’re the ones who want to transition and stay transitioned. We get how others feel this is ridiculous, but however cogent the arguments are against, we still want to stay transitioned. You can’t argue or persuade us out of it. Eventually, one would hope the anti-trans campaigners would realise that, and stop trying the arguments that don’t work- but they don’t.

So the “theory” or ideology, the false understanding of the world, is not trans people’s, but the anti-trans campaigners’. Our understanding accepts that trans people exist. Theirs doesn’t. They think, contrary to all the evidence, that we should simply be persuaded that we are wrong, and so detransition.

That theologian, Abigail Favale, believes “there is a givenness to the created order”- that is, that the real world has reality humans just have to accept. She thinks that means that trans women are men. But what it really means is that trans people exist.

She is not above taking arguments from the “feminist” anti-trans campaigners. Women’s lives, she says, are “contoured by the facticity of femaleness”. I think she means if you don’t have a womb you’re not a woman, though elsewhere she writes that being born a woman without a uterus is a “sex-specific” difference of sexual development, so that the person is still a woman.

In her world, the person welcomed by that priest would accept “the Catholic view of reality” and presumably stop taking hormones or seeking surgery. Would they be happy? She does not address the question. They would simply be conforming. Would Favale even notice they were miserable and unfulfilled? So, when we leave, and find a community that accepts us, Favale would be sad and uncomprehending, imagining we are mired in sin and delusion.

Trans people exist. Anti-trans campaigners can’t see that. Perhaps they’re only trying to persuade cis people- but then, they do not care about us at all, except as a problem they want to go away.

Sonia Sodha and the Labour Women’s Declaration

Keir Starmer is clear on trans rights. He says, “Trans women are women”. Sonia Sodha is an anti-trans campaigner, who seeks to foment fear about trans people, particularly trans women, and trans rights. So, what did she say in the Guardian this time?

Sodha’s aim is to paint trans exclusion as sweet reason. She starts with scaremongering: anti-trans campaigners felt unsafe, she says, and had to hire security. Then she introduces a hate group: The Labour Women’s Declaration.

They are a hate group because they campaign against trans rights and spread fear and misinformation about trans people. Sodha repeats that misinformation here.

Sodha claims their “belief” is unobjectionable, even rational: that “biological sex cannot be replaced with self-declared gender identity”. Nobody wants biological sex to be replaced. Most women have XX chromosomes and female reproductive systems. We only want people to recognise that trans women exist: that a tiny vulnerable minority, who do not have female reproductive systems, believe we are women or desire to express ourselves as women. We are women: that is the clear definition of the word.

We are happier, and enabled to contribute to society, if we can be accepted and treated as women. The Equality Act recognises this and allows us to use women’s services unless there are exceptional circumstances. We are allowed in from the moment we decide we will transition, if we present in our true sex.

Sodha claims the LWD position is “essentially where current law stands”. This is false, taken with her statement that women have the right to “single-sex” spaces, which she interprets as excluding all trans women. She wants trans women consigned to “gender neutral services” which often do not exist. Why should I use a toilet designed for disabled people?

Sodha demands total exclusion of trans women from women’s services, and for us to be placed in gender-neutral services we do not want. She calls this extreme position, contrary to the Equality Act, a “dignified and respectful compromise”. She cares nothing for the dignity of trans people.

Sodha implies that schools tell children they are trans, when the desire to transition comes from the child. Children have to show incredible strength of character, and usually have loving supportive parents, before they can transition, leave alone receive medical treatment. Of children discharged from the Gender Identity Development Service in 2019/20, around 250 of them had been referred to an endocrinologist for puberty blockers, perhaps half that were approved for cross-sex hormones. That’s out of eleven million children in Britain. Yet she claims this medical treatment is a threat to children, and implies that far more get it than actually do. Trans people who received this treatment as children report they live happier, healthier lives.

Sodha lists the ways people associated with the LWD have been treated by the Labour Party. She says Keir Starmer has had meetings with them, but not done what they demanded. She does not say why, she just says he has “failed to address” LWD concerns. The Labour Party refused the LWD a conference stall. In candidate selection, people have been asked to justify their views. A councillor has been disciplined for abstaining on a motion. A woman I admire has had her membership application rejected. Sodha says Unions also object to LWD associates.

The Labour Party is a democratic, decentralised party. This indicates that Party members at all levels object to the LWD and their views. The party is governed by rules: this shows that people disciplined by the party have broken those rules. Sodha has not investigated, or given the party members who made those decisions a chance to respond, she has just asserted that all levels of the Labour party and Union movement from the leader down have mistreated people associated with LWD. Then she says the SNP support increasing trans rights. Does she deny Nicola Sturgeon is a feminist? Does she accept that the SNP is a worthwhile party for feminists to join? More than half the SNP’s MSPs, and more than a third of its MPs, are women. Would they support a policy which hurts women’s rights in any way? Some of them oppose SNP policy, but only a tiny minority.

Sodha says this means “gender critical women” are “not welcome” in the Labour party. That’s ridiculous. Nobody accepts the whole platform of a party. We support it because we prefer it to the alternatives. “Gender-critical” people are welcome to their beliefs, but are not permitted to take action against the party, or unlawfully harass or discriminate against trans people.

The Guardian should publish a correction to the misinformation Sodha shares. However the next week the Observer letters headline was, “toxic trans debate is making me afraid”: the writer was not a trans women victim of the Observer, but a hater, objecting to being called transphobic. I don’t want her to be afraid, but her fear does not mean she is right.

Parliament debates nonbinary people

140,781 people signed the petition to make nonbinary a legally recognised gender identity in the UK. So, there was a debate in Westminster Hall. However, only six MPs bothered to speak, and only one was an unequivocal ally. Anneliese Dodds, the shadow secretary for women and equalities, was particularly disappointing. Content: transphobia. Continue reading

Sonia Sodha

Sonia Sodha of the Guardian understands online radicalisation and obsession. Why does she not see her own?

She had a rare sensible article in The Guardian on Sunday 6 February. She said that people talking nonsense double down when corrected. Myth-busting backfires because it reinforces myths. Tribal arguments where rhetorical flourish scores points does not produce understanding. Expressing reasonable-sounding doubts can persuade people of falsehood, where extremist ranting and raving fails. Mocking the extremists makes less extreme doubters feel mocked and sneered at. It is not true to imagine that there are people persuaded on both sides, and a persuadable group in the middle: people might appear to be on one side or the other depending on how a debate is framed. Social media platforms make money out of hardening our views by making us angry, so good rational argument will not always win.

On 7 November 2021 she argued that social media narcissists for social justice might make less right-on users feel guilty, rather than build alliances. So we move to extremism, only listening to those closest to us in view. The morally certain dehumanise those they disagree with.

All these are good points. I agree. So why does she not realise she is entrapped by the extremism she skewers here? Sodha is a militant anti-trans campaigner, insulated from rational argument by the same forces she explained.

On 2 January, she wrote an article supporting the chair of Laurence Fox’s “Reclaim Party”. The Macpherson report recommended investigation of “non-crime hate incidents” as a way of overcoming institutional racism, but Sodha objects because she opposes overcoming institutional transphobia. She claims single-sex spaces and sports, the “reasonable-sounding doubts” the anti-transers obsess over, could be “wholly replaced by gender identity”. She then repeats other extremists’ claims of martyrdom, already repeated endlessly.

On 6 June 2021 she used domestic violence statistics- one in three women experience domestic violence, a woman is killed by her partner or ex-partner every four days, seven in ten women are sexually harassed in public spaces- to demand trans women were excluded from women’s services. Trans women are victims too, and excluding trans women will not protect from violent men. Just as, the effects of covid are far more damaging than any side-effects of vaccines. But Sodha is blind to her own extremism, and all the arguments she makes for listening, explaining carefully, and about the risks of echo-chambers are forgotten.

Sodha alleges Stonewall campaigns “to abolish legal provisions for single-sex spaces”. She puts her argument in the most extreme form imaginable. Of course Stonewall do not campaign to abolish single-sex spaces, only to tolerate and accept trans women, a tiny minority. Sodha claims accepting trans women means believing womanhood is “solely based on a feeling”. That trivialises trans people’s experience, and ignores that in a trans-inclusive society the overwhelming majority of women are cis.

The EHRC is a transphobic front organisation for the Conservative Party after politicised appointments to its board. It now downplays racism in the UK. But Sodha’s fingerprints are on this Observer editorial of 30 January. As Nicola Sturgeon says, gender recognition reform does not affect single-sex spaces, but the editorial echoes uncritically the EHRC claim that it does, and even claims the new leadership of the EHRC has made it fair and impartial.

Even the New Statesman has published an article on how the single-minded obsession of the anti-trans campaigners makes them ignore any other feminist issue. It quotes some of the abuse a trans-inclusive feminist suffers. Anti-trans campaigners memorise arcane details about trans women in women’s prisons, many of them inaccurate, but ignore the problems of women prisoners completely. Meanwhile Sodha is aware of the dangers of all internet extremism except her own.

6 March: Sodha disfigured a derivative but otherwise unobjectionable article about male violence against women by referring to “single-sex” prisons, hospital wards and domestic violence shelters (which do not exclude sons). She will take any chance for a sly sideswipe against trans women.

29 May: Sodha wrote an article on Allison Bailey’s vile tweet attacking Stonewall and its employee Morgan Page as coaching trans women (“heterosexual males who identify as lesbians”) to “coerce” lesbians into sex. Morgan Page was involved in the unfortunately named “cotton ceiling” seminar. Sodha used the article to claim trans women are male as if gender does not matter, and that there is gender ideology saying gender is more important than sex, rather than gender-critical ideology claiming transgender does not exist. She also claimed that gay children are having trans identities “foisted on” them, as if anyone who is homophobic is not also transphobic.

26 June: Sodha excelled herself: the overturn of Roe v Wade is trans people’s fault. “Women are a sex-based class,” she thundered, but “women” is called an offensive word. The headline called abortion a “sex-based right”.

2 October: Sodha wrote an attack on the Labour Party and its support for trans rights. Here is a refutation.

21 January 2023: Sodha wants the Equality Act amended to define sex as biological sex. That is, she wants women’s services to exclude all trans women, without exception. Never mind our human rights, never mind our needs.

Transphobia in the EHRC

The Equality and Human Rights Commission echoes transphobic propaganda to undertake transphobic acts. On Wednesday 26th it wrote to the Scottish government to oppose gender recognition reform.

It suggests there is a distinction between “a small defined group” of trans people who should get GRCs because they have demonstrated their commitment and ability to live in our true gender, and others who might identify as the opposite gender at some point.

If gender is cultural, to talk of the “opposite gender” is meaningless. There are more than two. And, that is a tougher test than the current one. I have lived in my “acquired gender” for the past two years, but Kishwer Falkner seeing that I rarely go out might think I was not really capable, and might even suggest reverting. But I would get a GRC if I did not have one already, having the psychiatric diagnoses, and credit card statements in my female name.

Internalised transphobia holds many people back from transition. We worry, are we trans enough. Then we transition. We are clearly trans. The EHRC perpetuates the myth that people who are not trans really need protection from unwise transition.

Then they quote transphobic myths. No, GRCs will not affect sport, as who is entitled to participate in women’s sports does not depend on gender recognition, but on safety and fairness. No, counting trans women as women does not affect data gathering, as there are so few of us. They have swallowed these myths circulated by transphobes.

Their response to the Conversion therapy consultation is equally transphobic. They want to go ahead with a sexual orientation conversion ban but delay a trans conversion ban to get an evidence base. They want scrutiny to show that a ban has no harmful effect. They accept the idea of banning converting someone from cis to trans, as if that were possible, or anyone wanted to. “Forced feminisation” is a sex game, not a serious attempt at conversion. But therapists might fear any encouragement of transition in case someone reverted and accused them of conversion.

“Of course you are transsexual” is the single best thing any counsellor ever said to me, and I fled. I did not see him again for six months. Therapists will fear helping with internalised transphobia, which is a huge problem for pre-transition trans people. Support groups may fear admitting anyone who expresses doubt about transition. The concept of conversion from cis to trans is potentially terribly damaging.

They fear a ban on anti-trans CT would “prevent appropriate support” for people with gender dysphoria, that is even when we are trans we should “explore” whether transition is right, and therapists should make us do so rather than just affirm our gender identity, as if any therapist ever did that. They affirm “attempts to reconcile a person to their biological sex”.

They accept that someone should be able to consent to CT, even someone under 18. They say parents should be allowed to oppose transition because of the right to family life. In Canada, they look after the child’s rights.

They say encouraging people to follow religion banning gay sex or transition should be allowed. Preaching about sexual ethics and gender roles should be allowed, though it caused me great harm.

Paragraph 23 took my breath away. The EHRC suggests that banning CT might be discrimination against LGBT people.

The EHRC is threatening guidance for “single-sex service providers”. It can no longer be trusted to work for the interests of trans people.

The EHRC letter to the Scottish government is available here. As I could only find its response to the CT consultation on a hate site, I have uploaded it as a .docx file here.

Nikki da Costa

The interview of Nikki da Costa on Radio 4 this week, giving her an unchallenged platform to attack trans people and trans rights, was reprehensible, but I will not be complaining. Before making a case against the interview, I make a case for it in order to see what I have to refute.

Da Costa argued that the law on conversion therapy should be delayed to make sure it was drafted properly. She claimed there was a risk that a therapist or parents who correctly challenged a teenager’s conviction that they were trans, who wanted to “really explore, slow down and check what’s happening”, could be at risk of accusations that they were engaging in conversion therapy, and an innocent person could be dragged through the courts.

What risks are there when a child presents as trans? The risk da Costa identifies is a risk to cis children, who are wrong to claim that they are trans. They could be gay or lesbian. Being autistic might make them unable to see they would be better off living in their birth gender. What if they “go down a medicalised pathway” and then revert? She did not say, but meant, their breasts or testicles, their voice, fertility and body hair distribution, could be irreversibly damaged.

It is hard to get cis people to admit there might be a risk to trans people too. Going through the wrong puberty, when it is theoretically avoidable, is traumatic and causes life-long avoidable problems with passing. Our acceptance should not depend on whether we pass or not, but passing makes a trans person’s life easier and gender dysphoria less. There is great anger and misery among the cis community when someone reverts, because the cis people think that proves they were never trans, but delaying transition seems unproblematic to them, however painful it is to us.

Getting them to accept that the trans child is traumatised is difficult. They care far more about the theoretical cis child in danger of unwise transition. So the question for cis people is, how can therapists appropriately “explore” the child’s needs? “Explore” is a neutral term, which they think entails challenging the child’s conviction they are trans. We know the therapist should want to “Really explore,” find what is right for the child and help them towards it, but this is threatened by the suggested prohibition of non-existent cis-to-trans conversion.

And then, generally I want journalists to bring to light allegations children might be at risk, even if against the consensus. Thalidomide was marketed for morning sickness for four years, affecting at least 10,000 children many of whom it killed, before it was withdrawn as a treatment. The trouble is that the few reverters have too great significance for them. To realise that some people are trans and transitioning benefits us is more empathy than they can manage.

As a trans person I see this interview as someone attacking trans rights and casting “transgender ideology” as a threat to children, at least needing balanced by someone in favour of trans, and ideally dismissed before it is aired. Listening to da Costa, I hear the ludicrousness of it. No-one will be “dragged through the courts” as an innocent party. The difficulty of proving conversion therapy is too great. No-one will be inhibited from exploring the child’s, or adult’s, desire to transition. But I don’t think cis people will have heard it that way.

Before complaining I want to make a case under the BBC’s own guidelines, and I don’t think it will work. I might make a case about the relative balance of opposition to protection of trans people against trans people standing up for our rights, but to do that would have to listen to the programme for an hour a day, and that is too much. The BBC publishes no record of who they interview, or about what, separate to the recordings.

It’s not balance to platform haters attacking trans, but you can’t convince the cis of that. There was terrible difficulty stopping the BBC from platforming climate change deniers, because of “balance”. After all, lots of highly paid lobbyists oppose action on climate change, as do many Times and Spectator columnists.

Da Costa went on to say Boris Johnson is a conviction politician, and the burden of doing the right thing over Brexit and Covid weighed heavily on his shoulders. Ridiculous! I cry. He has hobbled the British economy, and as he demanded “let the bodies pile high in their thousands”, 30,000 in January 2021 alone. But from the “Conservative” point of view of Nikki da Costa, he was seeking the good of the British people in abolishing regulations and going about our business unrestricted and unmasked.

The Conservative wants the sovereign individual to be free from legal restriction. Theirs is an individualist view. We on the Left see that a person is not free if they are not paid a living wage, may be sacked or evicted at whim, or are forced to risk infection by a deadly disease. It makes no practical difference whether an exporter is restricted by British law, or by French law, in exporting to France, so those in favour of private enterprise see British law should facilitate rather than inhibit the exporter and work with France to agree the rules rather than create different rules. However the radical Conservative only wants to repeal rules in British law, and apparently does not see how law may be for the common good.

In the same way da Costa’s opposition to conversion therapy law seeks freedom for the individual, rather than collective security the Left offers. For those on the Left, trans people are part of the Community, the We the People law should protect. Our wellbeing matters as much as cis people’s, or therapists’. For the Right, we do not. We can be simply portrayed as a Threat.

1 April: da Costa was on Today again, saying the same falsehoods. She says if trans conversion was illegal, therapists would be inhibited from exploring underlying issues. Rubbish. All that would be problematic would be a complete closed-minded denial that the patient was trans, or that transition might benefit them. Even then, they might not reach the discipline tribunal, let alone the criminal court, unless they attempted to change the child from being trans.

Trans in 2021

In the UK in 2021, trans legal rights remain robust, though increasingly under attack. Nonbinary as well as binary trans are protected from discrimination. From the moment we decide to transition, trans women expressing ourselves female are entitled to use women’s services. In its code of practice issued in 2011, the Equality and Human Rights Commission put strong restrictions on the right to exclude someone because she is trans, including that it should be case by case- being entitled to exclude one trans woman does not mean a service can exclude all.

Some facts are relevant. Sex is real. Without sexual reproduction the species dies out. I don’t have a uterus, and have never menstruated. And, trans is real. People have transitioned for millennia over many different cultures. We are a harmless minority, and the way the Labour government chose to integrate us, by giving us a right to be treated socially in our true gender, helps us to flourish. The government followed the lead of the European Court of Human Rights.

There is no such thing as “gender ideology”, and there is no harm to women from including trans women. Attempts to claim crime statistics on women should exclude trans women are merely silly. But fearmongering and hatred are normalised, in the BBC, Guardian and New Statesman as well as the Times and Daily Mail. Now the Women and Equalities Committee of the House of Commons calls for a legal definition distinguishing sex from gender, and that has no purpose but to say that because trans people change gender and not sex, we should be excluded from “single-sex spaces”. That would turn our lives upside down.

We might still be tolerated, in practice, in women’s loos, but we would be even more likely to be misgendered and abused, and that would extend to gender nonconforming people. Whatever the law, whatever the attitude in the wider culture, we will always be able to find communities where we can be ourselves. Quakers have spoken out about our need to welcome trans people (pdf). I also have the Lovely Gathering.

Daily, we read of more hostility. JK Rowling is fatuously but angrily claimed to be “cancelled” even as yet another fantastic beasts film slouches towards us. The reporting is skewed. I am not particularly familiar with the Equal Treatment Bench Book, but it helps judges treat vulnerable people according to their human rights. A thief should be punished for their offences, taking into account all mitigating factors, and not for who they are- trans status, colour, gender. So trans people are treated as belonging to our presenting gender, so that we have less reason to believe the court is against us from the start.

The change in this revision is the belief that some witnesses might have a reasonable expectation of misgendering us. The example given in The Guardian is of a husband who assaults their wife and subsequently transitions. That is, they report the tale of the Violent Trans, even though we suffer more violence than we inflict. The Guardian report suggests the new thing is that judges should use our preferred pronouns, even though it has been like that for years. I checked the February 2021 edition, and the guidance on treating us in our true gender was there, but not the permission to misgender.

Tara Wolf‘s case showed a judge asking hostile witnesses at least to use neutral pronouns, in a case he said would not have been brought without media interest in a trans v terfs narrative. This is another example of emphasis on supposed rights of those who object to us, such as cis women sharing a building with trans women in prison.

Transphobia is organised and amplified in Britain. And we have allies. I love Tom Daley’s Christmas message. With hate against minorities managed for political ends, gay people should know that if you say nothing, they come for you next. And always the demonisation, as if quiet, gentle trans people were angry, oppressive and violent, and women were rightly frightened; as if the problem of violence against women would be solved if all the trans were excluded.

People will continue to transition. In 2022, more trans people than ever before will express themselves as their true selves, finding it just too painful not to.

Transphobia everywhere

Adam Phillips is a fascinating writer. Surely an editor should have red-lined this: “if we can’t let ourselves feel our frustration – and, surprisingly, this is a surprisingly difficult thing to do”. I have been thinking about this repetition, which however I analyse it I cannot make mean anything. Possibly the value is making the sentence memorable, about finding inconvenient emotions difficult to feel, so getting the lesson over. I know emotions I find threatening can remain unconscious, though still affecting me, and someone who did not know that might be brought to a halt by this apparent solecism, and so consider its message, and possibly admit it.

I am reading “On Wanting to Change”. As I want to change, I feel this erudite therapist might prompt me in useful directions. And then I find this sentence: “Converts are like transvestites: they disguise something the better to display it.” I could think of female impersonators, or drag queens, or even alleged fetishists who suffer no gender dysphoria at all- some category for the “transvestite”, so I could say, oh, he does not mean me- but I am not sure he would make the distinction. Would he think me an exhibitionist? I walk the streets with my real self on show, which most people have the modesty and discretion not to do.

Would he think me ridiculous or disgusting? As a therapist, he would see the full ridiculousness and surprisingness of people, and still find some motivation to spend time with them- the fees they pay, or dispassionate interest, or even perhaps a desire to make them better.

I have been paying attention, as I feel it might benefit me, and I am caught short by a reminder of my vulnerability and the contempt, distaste or political hostility some feel for people like me. This is a complete pain.

I had been thinking how I want to follow current affairs, in the hope that I might influence them, by protest, canvassing, blogging. But if I read the Guardian, or New Statesman, or listen to BBC news, I may at any time be brought up short by the Trans is Bad article, or a throwaway Trans is Bad comment. The New Statesman had no Trans is Bad article last week, which is a mercy, but I was reading Rachel Cunliffe’s views on Azeem Rafiq, nodding in agreement and seeing new angles through her eyes, when she rewrote history about JK Rowling to make that transphobic aggressor appear like a victim.

Does Cunliffe believe Rowling was a victim? Did she not read Rowling’s screed, in which she weaponised her experience of domestic violence to preach hatred of trans people? Has she just forgotten the screed itself, only remembering what haters claiming victimhood wrote about it?

Ideally I would want to read Cunliffe’s views of Azeem Rafiq, which help me understand, and might help me persuade others, without being reminded that I am a pariah simply because of being trans.

I read Rebecca Solnit, whom I admire, asking for donations to The Guardian, which I value, which has worthwhile journalism on pollution, the climate crisis, and tax havens, and thought, yeah, but it’s full of transphobia. Then I read Rebecca Solnit on Donald Trump, with a line about reading books being better. So I started reading Adam Phillips.

I could turn to facebook. There I might find encouragement and solidarity, and express it, but there I read that Richard Dawkins has tweeted that his followers should sign a transphobic hate screed. I knew Dawkins was a transphobe, and that real feminists might find him problematic, and still I find this a blow. Our enemies are so powerful, and always getting stronger!

At the recital on Saturday, the older woman sitting behind me started a conversation with me, and remarked on how weird it was that I stripped down to a short sleeved shirt in November, as if she had never heard of hot flushes.

Wherever I go, whatever I read, I will find reminders that people I admire and want to like find trans, and therefore me, repulsive, ridiculous, or threatening. I cannot escape. As far as I can tell, it is almost like being Black, in kind if not in degree. Perhaps the answer is acceptance and Love. I would become fully open to my feelings, however threatening, and admit the full horror, pain and fear I feel at the thoughtless or carefully constructed anti-trans idea. Then I would pass on. I would accept the thing I cannot change. It might be better than being tied in knots of resentment.

The World is not as it should be. How may we change it?

Justin Webb

If the BBC were defunded, as the Conservative government seeks to do, broadcasting and newsgathering in Britain would be irreparably damaged. But it is institutionally transphobic, and makes complaints against them phenomenally difficult. Complain enough, and they suggest you write to the Executive Complaints Unit.

Here is my complaint against Justin Webb, explained for the Executive Complaints Unit in full. Continue reading