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”.

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

Silke Steidinger’s “Exploration of gender dysphoria”

Silke Steidinger, psychotherapist, musician, and researcher on minority religious movements, “explores being human” and produced her film, “Trans-Actions: An Exploration of Gender Dysphoria” for her MA degree. She is gender nonconforming, AFAB, but apparently not trans as the person who introduced me to it claimed. That person is an anti-trans campaigner, yet she called it “a very good film” and I find it interesting.

In 2018, Steidinger produced a ninety minute film, and now only a thirty minute cut is available. She interviewed trans people, anti-trans campaigners, and medical professionals. They were,

  • Christopher Inglefield, a plastic surgeon who performs trans surgeries and cis man;
  • E-j Scott, curator of the museum of transology and trans man;
  • Susie Orbach, psychoanalyst and cis woman;
  • Emily-jo Miller, performer and trans woman;
  • psychotherapist Robert Withers, later disgraced, cis man;
  • Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, cis gay man;
  • Susan Matthews, contributor to a discredited anti-trans book and cis woman, who unfortunately spreads the myth of desistance;
  • Peter Fonagy, psychologist and cis man, and
  • James Caspian, cis man anti-trans campaigner who seeks to do worthless, unethical “research” and conspiracy-theorises about why the ethics committee prevented it.

Caspian introduces himself, then only appears once in the film, saying he is taking his former university to court. Judicial review was refused, so he went to the European Court of Human Rights in February 2021. Their target is to deal with cases within three years. (When I refer to “the film” hereafter, I mean the shorter version, as I have not seen the longer version).

Then Steidinger assembled their comments to show different ways of seeing trans. Her questions are rarely included. Sometimes she writes an afterthought on the film. She has a twitter but does not tweet. Her eponymous website is no longer available. As a psychotherapist, she offers help with gender and gender dysphoria, among many other issues, by offering a secure attachment with professional boundaries.

Why would an anti-trans campaigner and a trans woman both think a film about trans interesting or worthwhile? Perhaps she saw the ninety minute version, and perhaps it gives a very different impression. Or, on a superficial viewing both could pick out the bits they agreed with, and dismiss the rest, not knowing how someone coming new to the film might see it.

The film starts with Scott, the trans man, who says the NHS has a gender crisis, then goes on to Withers, who says trans people have psychological issues they can’t recognise. Scott is shown saying he knows no detransitioners and the panic is unfounded, then Withers tells the story of his trans patient. After nine years expressing female, the patient reverted. Being post-operative, he needed a testosterone prescription and cannot live fully as a man. He was vilified by the trans community, says Withers, and unfortunately that is likely. He would be angry about being treated, we would be frightened his case would be used to prevent our treatment. Therapist and client both thought he had been sold a surgical solution to a psychological problem, and Withers’ refusal to consider alternative explanations later led him to being sanctioned by the discipline tribunal- but few people coming new to the “debate” will know that.

Very well. There are detransitioners. For the anti-trans campaigner, that is all that needs to be said. Transition has damaged them. For me, given that retransitioners talk of the transphobia that led them to detransition, it is all more complicated than that.

The surgeon, Inglefield, repeatedly says that surgery- the removal of breasts and penises, changing the facial appearance- is the only cure, but then is shown saying “Even five years ago, individuals would have been pushed into surgery because they were told the only way to manage GD is surgery.” So he is shown apparently contradicting himself. So is Peter Tatchell: he is shown saying with gender dysphoria there is too much focus on anatomy and not enough on psychology, and then shown saying he has always opposed the designation of trans people as having a mental health issue.

Matthews is an academic in English Literature who nevertheless expresses forceful opinions that trans children aren’t really trans. In the film, she appears once, saying she was concerned about the psychology of gender clinic clinicians, “blasé to the harm” they did their patient. At this point, the hater would be cheering.

Orbach gets a lot of screen time. She says the idea that medical treatment should be for a medical disorder throws up challenges to gender treatment. She does not think you should need a psychiatric diagnosis in order to get treatment. But as a psychotherapist, she would investigate people’s search for meaning, the complexities of their situation, their ability to be certain and at the same time tolerate internal differences.

Then she says (I think) that gender dysphoric children are forced into treatment because of pressure in the culture stopping them accepting their bodies, rather than a problem with the body itself. Well, I would like to change society too, and get rid of gender stereotypes, but until we do we need physical therapy.

Fonagy is chief executive of the Anna Freud national centre for children and families, where he taught Steidinger. He says that the distinction between physical and mental is unhelpful. I am not a Cartesian dualist either. He says trans people should have an opportunity to explore, psychologically, their problem with their experience of their body, without being stigmatised as mentally ill. The stigma reduces their willingness to explore their feelings. He feels if this were done, it might produce a resolution of gender identity issues “above other approaches that are more radical”. He can only mean surgery. So, if we understand, we will cease to want to transition, or at least to transition physically.

In the middle of this, Miller is shown saying easing gender dysphoria by psychological treatment is not a viable alternative. It would only end up seeking to deter people from transition. So cisnormative people, uncomfortable with trans people, are seeking a solution which they find comfortable.

Near the end, a caption asks, “What is gender dysphoria?” Miller says, “I dunno it’s hard to describe”. She is 23, transitioned since 17, and still “hyper aware of facets that seem overly masculine”. It’s how she is perceived, but also it is in her body.

Fonagy then says we need to be more sensitive to how gender can manifest in an individual.

Steidinger hardly appears until the last segment. She strings together her interviewees’ answers. But with Scott, we hear her voice. She asks him if he has thoughts about the causes of transgender, and he finds this stigmatising, like old questions about causes of homosexuality. We seek causes for things we find unpleasant or unacceptable.

Steidinger still thinks it is an important question. Things run smoothly for cis people, for trans people there is disruption, she says. Well, that is because society others us. Scott says it is possible that there are problems with current understandings of gender, even understandings which include trans people, but that is a different question.

Steidinger says, “I identify as lesbian”. An afterthought appears written on the screen- “Well, gay really”. “And also as gender nonconforming. I wanted to be a boy until I was twelve or something” and in writing it says, “Maybe to this day at times….”

“I ask what being gay was about,” she says. Ah, there it is. It is a film made by someone forced to question herself because she has minority sexual desires, and possibly a minority gender identity. So she produces a film where authority figures speculate on causes and psychological cures for gender dysphoria separate from being trans.

I know nothing of the ninety minute cut. I too speculate about causes, and underlying psychological issues, and get more and more certain that I am deeply feminine. Transition was the only way I could permit myself to be who I am. For me to feel safe presenting male but expressing my femininity would need a different life for me, a different upbringing, and almost certainly a different world.

I hope Steidinger has not suffered abuse for her film, but probably she has. Anti-trans campaigners could probably watch the short version and go away satisfied that surgery is wrong, and possibly that post-operative trans people are damaged, pitiable, and probably dangerous. And I see a filmmaker whose gender does not fit our society, who is questioning, and who just wants a psychological solution, as I still do. Oh, I want not to be in conflict.

And the film shows various cis people claiming that gender dysphoria is a psychological problem needing psychological solutions, and two trans people insisting it isn’t. So it is the perfect introduction to the “debate”. Which do you believe?

The New Statesman and trans

Are trans people a threat to women and children? You decide: The New Statesman is even-handed on the matter. It printed a review of Shon Faye, The Transgender Issue, and Helen Joyce, Trans, and an interview with Helen Joyce, in which a man, Harry Lambert, parroted her accusations in a fawning manner. On its website but not the print edition it had an interview with Shon Faye.

The editor really should spot the signs in the Helen Joyce hagiography. There is a threat to women, Joyce and Lambert claim, and it’s a bigger fight for women than the suffragettes faced. Inclusive language for trans men and nonbinary people is “dehumanising” for cis women, who are “vulnerable”. Anyone standing up for cis women’s rights to spaces without trans women, in a completely reasonable way, is “demonised” and “vilified”, despite their heroic “suffragette” status. There is a threat: schools, hospitals and prisons adopt “self-ID” where there are no safeguards, and people simply say they are trans. This is “regressive” (a word to offend NS’s “progressive” readers) and schools are “at risk”. Trans children receiving treatment from doctors is “a massive medical scandal”. “A climate of fear” prevents cis women from standing up to the Trans Threat.

Trans people dangerous! Cis people- women and children!– at risk! The minority is demonised in the article, which Denies Attacks and Reverses Victim and Offender.

This is of course ridiculous. Self-ID in prisons? Then why are most trans women prisoners in men’s prisons? A moment’s thought would refute all this, but the emotive words threat, risk, fear, prevent that thought. And so ordinary decent NS readers are taught to fear a minority. NS is not Völkischer Beobachter, but the article is Stürmeresque.

Sophie McBain reviewed both Faye’s and Joyce’s books. Writing of Faye, she seems mostly sympathetic, but gives statistics of girls referred to the gender clinic: 40 in 2009/10, 1806 in 2017/18. “Not all of these will transition medically” she says, but in fact the proportion is tiny: 16% were referred for puberty blockers, and only 9% for cross sex hormones.

No-one is being “pushed into identifying as trans”, as the article suggests. The problem is the opposite: if a trans child manages to reach the clinic, despite all the obstacles and the years-long waiting list, they are still unlikely to get treatment. The “massive medical scandal” is trans children left untreated, not as Joyce and these articles would have you believe innocent cis children being transed just because they are gender nonconforming or gay.

Then, in the course of balance, McBain goes on to Joyce’s book, which “raises questions”. What about the detransitioners? Should self-ID get you into women’s domestic violence shelters? Should any trans women (she does not mention the hormone requirements) be in women’s sports?

McBain does not simply accept Joyce’s views. “The more conspiratorial aspects of the book are the least persuasive”, she says, of the allegation of a “well-funded, politically sophisticated group of trans activists”. Harriet Harman produced our current system of self-id, out of decency and solidarity not ideology. McBain says Joyce “raises important, complicated issues”, and suggests teens with gender dysphoria should have “emotional support and counselling” rather than puberty blockers. She is right that “true freedom comes from dismantling gender stereotypes” but not as a replacement for hormone therapy. Then she suggests that male sex offenders get into women’s prisons by self-ID.

McBain gets a lot right, but her attempt at being judicious and nuanced means she falls for some, though not all, of Joyce’s paranoid propaganda. She calls Joyce’s figures that women athletes are slower than men, the “strongest parts of Joyce’s book, grounded in rigorous research and focused on the facts”, ignoring that all women athletes have exceptional physiques from natural aptitude, and hormone rules mean that no male athlete pretends to be trans.

If I just avoid news and comment sites which publish transphobic lies and propaganda, that means avoiding of all the mainstream British sites. If I read sites which print progressive views I support, such as The Guardian or NS, I will come across disturbingly transphobic articles which make me anxious and depressed. I don’t know what to do about this. I recommend you read the Shon Faye interview. It makes some excellent points. Now I will re-watch Philosophy Tube.

7 October: the transphobe Lambert attacked the Green Party in the new issue of NS. He claimed new co-leader Carla Denyer calling the anti-trans hate group LGB All Liars a hate group would divide the party and drive away supporters. He asked her co-leader Adrian Ramsay if “spaces” should be reserved for “those born female”, clearly showing his trans-excluding ideology. Ramsay told him the law: services could exclude individual trans women on a case by case basis. Lambert then told a falsehood about the current law, claiming that services could restrict access “on the basis of sex”, by which he means cis women only. He then claims that the leadership contest revolved around trans rights because Siân Berry challenged Shahrar Ali, rather than because Ali made an attack on trans rights his whole pitch.

8 February 2022: Louise Perry said trans rights is a matter of compelled speech: according to her saying trans men are men is like insisting water is not wet. So she calls for cis people to “fight”.