Wolf-whistle

I was wolf-whistled yesterday. Even though I switched my irony detector off, it still glowed red: Sarcasm! Sarcasm! Strange how you can read these passions in length, and variations in volume. We are communicating creatures.

The gender critical feminist might resent wolf-whistles. The woman is seen as a sex object, the property of men to express their judgment of her, rather than a whole person. So it’s not a compliment, but part of a range of activities including groping strangers on a train, and worse. Then they snark at trans women. “They like wolf-whistles, it makes them feel affirmed.” Another reason we are not real women and harmful to real women. But I would feel differently about a wolf-whistle, if I thought it genuine. I would be relieved. The sarcastic one said I was remarkably unattractive, and possibly that I was read. There’s the threat of violence. “I would never hit a woman, but I would hit you.” The genuine whistle sees me as a real woman. I judge the threat of assault in that slightly less.

I am not a cartesian dualist. We are animals, and chimpanzees, rats and even invertebrates can be useful analogues for humans in research. My brain developed as part of my body, and continues to be changed by my experience. Brain, meet testicles: they were a centimetre apart at week 8, already communicating with hormones.

Partly I argue trans folk should not have surgery because we should not bear the cost of our difference, and partly because we are an integrated whole. Much of the queer theory used to justify surgery is dualist: female brain/soul/spirit/whatever “trapped in a man’s body”. If “I” am feminine, that would appear to apply only to my brain if anything, and not to my gonads, skeleton, even fat distribution.

Yet, before surgery I was estranged from my body, having suffered shame over it since childhood. After surgery, I came to love it. As I chew over all this stuff, blogging meaning thinking as I write, I wonder if I could have been brought to value it without transition. I feel keeping the body whole is a better way, yet surgery freed me to value my body.

I am for trans rights because we exist. We can’t be argued out of it. We transition under threat of death. We might be loved out of it- of course a man can be like that. And if gender stereotypes lost their force, we might not transition. The man cannot carry a foetus but can nurture a child. While we exist, though, we should be treated reasonably.

The trans woman’s belief that she is a woman is a falsehood, but convincing her of that may only make her unhappy. I want to speak the truth, but that involves communicating what people can hear, and also loyalty: my loyalty is to gender non-conforming people, and especially gynephile trans women. Saying trans women are men is not true, because it denies that fragment of truth that trans women hold about being human.

This photo is an almost-photo, a lovely background. The sun on the tree in the foreground brought out rich colours which my phone did not quite capture. The reflection is not quite good enough for interest. It really needed a bird doing something to make it, and so I sat on the wooden floor, waiting for something to happen. Had I waited longer, there might have been more. And there, for an instant, was the bird reflected in the water. We had coffee, then Richard got the bus home and I cycled in the sunshine on the dismantled railway, in the sun with the birdsong, in the beauty, feeling bliss.

Mumsnet

There was a suggestion that trans activists had urged advertisers to boycott Mumsnet, the parents’ forum which is an increasing centre for hatefests against trans folk. I doubt anyone pro-trans has any power to begin to make Mumsnet edit out the hatred and vitriol, but someone said there had been a few tweets. So I went back to Mumsnet, to see what it was like.

There’s a thread on boycotting the Guardian, because they don’t find it transphobic enough. I’m looking for an alternative news source and for the first time in my life I’m actually considering the Times or the Telegraph, neither of which have been allowed over my threshold till now, said the original poster. I’d support [The Times] for Janice Turner’s stance alone, said another. Poster after poster echoes this, often proclaiming how left-wing they think they are, even how they do not like money going to Murdoch, and because The Times is relentlessly transphobic and The Guardian isn’t, they change their newspaper.

They see themselves as victims. So there really is no alternative leftish news source that hasn’t turned on feminists? Well, Hadley Freeman is transphobic, but the pro-trans articles put them off.

On girl guides, one claims “a close trans friend” told her she is lesbian, trans girls can share tents with other girls despite perhaps being attracted to girls, then writes And the girls are not allowed to say anything. Please tell me this is wrong. Well, only if it is wrong for lesbians to share tents with straight girls. If any trans girl does anything wrong, deal with the problem then, as you would with any other girl. This miasma of fear of what might happen with trans girls is literally transphobic. If you’re not afraid of driving despite the statistical likelihood of accidents, don’t spread fear of what trans folk might do. One denies being phobic: That’s what I keep saying in response to the people who squawk with outrage and say “are you saying all transgirls are predators?” My answer is, no of course they’re not. But all you need is mixed accommodation and normal levels of teenage hormonally driven randiness and consensual experimentation and… et voila, teenage pregnancies. All must suffer, because of her fears.

One thread demands an email pile-on. Sue Lent, chair of governors at Roath Park primary school, held a “Woman’s Place” hatefest against trans folk. She now faces an extraordinary Governors’ meeting concerning their Equality statement: Roath Park Primary School is committed to working towards equality regardless of …gender reassignment, and to the creation of an inclusive culture. Women’s Place UK isn’t. I found a transcript on Medium. It starts with the deliberate lie, any man- for whatever reason he chooses- will be able to fill out a form and declare himself legally a woman. Not according to the Scottish consultation, and highly unlikely if England ever consults. It then fearmongers: an aggressive, ideological assault on the sex based exemptions… the aggressive shut down of any dialogue… effectively obliterate all the rights and protections women spent centuries fighting for. This out of proportion reaction- Trans rights are the Death of Feminism!- justifies any hate they spew in their eyes.

India Willoughby was on talk radio to talk about Mumsnet. There’s a thread on that. Transgender identified males have been trying to roll back women’s rights for 14 years. She means since the Gender Recognition Act, but we have been transitioning for millennia.

It does seem to be the same people, over and over again, though one says I wouldn’t have questioned trans ideology without Mumsnet anyway. When someone challenges them, “I smell MRA” says someone, and another responds I smell something. Someone open a window. They can’t bear being challenged.

Another thread is plotting pretending to be men, as if self-ID were anything like that. They want to swim topless. I live in Northern Ireland but I’d travel to London for an organised Hampstead Heath swim-in protest, says someone. They are obsessive. The longer the government delays the consultation, the louder the hatred gets.

Kevin Williamson

Kevin Williamson is an angry transphobe. So what? He was recently appointed as a columnist for The Atlantic. Yes, a centrist magazine can have a few conservative writers: does it matter, that he is a transphobe? Content warning: I quote him.

Laverne Cox is not a woman, he wrote in 2014. Regardless of the question of whether he has had his genitals amputated, Cox is not a woman, but an effigy of a woman. That goes beyond opinion to personal attack and mockery. Speculating on whether she has had treatment is designed to ridicule. Yes, the article was only relevant because Laverne Cox was in the news, but that does not mean he should be cruel like that.

Williamson uses male pronouns throughout. He writes about the difference between objective fact and perception or desire. To him, sex is objective fact. Sexual orientation isn’t- our neat little categories of sexual orientation are yet another substitution of the conceptual for the actual, human sexual behavior being more complex and varied than the rhetoric of sexual orientation can accommodate. Some people are entirely gay, and bisexual people are still subject to prejudice even from gay people. If Williamson is right, the “neat little categories” arise from homophobia. Yet the neat little categories of sex which he upholds would not be elastic enough to include me as a woman, because Williamson himself is uncomfortable with that. Only his neat little categories are acceptable.

That first quote I got from Michelle Goldberg in the NYT. She calls it “demeaning”, and it is the most clearly demeaning sentence in the article. She calls it cruel, too: sometimes she enjoys cruelty, and then is “prompted to uncomfortable self-recognition”. It makes her mend her ways. I would say Williamson is irrelevant. “Cox is not a woman!” he shouts. Well, if your definition is so important to you- but that is not the question. The question is whether she should be treated as a woman, accepted as a woman, whether that makes our society more flexible and able to help all members flourish. If Cox is not a woman, so what? How should she behave, how should others behave? Times being what they are, we might even offer our indulgence. He might even treat her as a woman, but not yet- see those pronouns.

So I despise him. His offer of “indulgence” makes it worse, actually: if he were honestly outraged or disgusted, his vituperation might have some excuse, as we excuse a person overcome by emotion. But he keeps his cruelty in, even though he sees a better way. What would the “indulgence” mean? Not celebrating her talents, as that is what roused his ire. Bare toleration, perhaps. People have been tolerating trans women since forever, and he can go along with that- but he objects to her being celebrated as a talented individual who has achieved a lot against severe difficulties. He wants to look down on her, and for everyone else to, as well. The indulgence only lasts as long as she is kept down, fearful of those like Williamson. When her talents are celebrated he needs to pull her down, and calling her “he” is the obvious way. He reminds me of a small boy trying to explain the method of a magic trick a far more charismatic child used to entertain the adults.

Brett Stephens, also in the NYT, misstates the charge against Williamson. It is not that you believe sex is a biological reality and that gender should not be a choice. Well, no, it is that he is personal and abusive. Stephens calls that “guilt by pull-quote”- three sentences out of “hundreds of thousands of smart, stylish and often hilarious commentary”.

The New Republic points out Williamson is “gratuitously cruel” and dissects his comparison of a black boy to a “primate”. Mother Jones, from the left, says his guilt is not sufficient, from two pull-quotes: that word “primate” and Williamson’s suggestion that abortion should be treated as homicide. He tweeted that women should be hanged. Stop worrying about him per se, argue against what he writes. He is “provocative, engaging, stylish”, as well as “unpredictable” and “energetic”. Entertainment is what matters. “Give tolerance a chance” wrote the National Review.

We won’t get everyone who makes a jab at trans people silenced ever after. Which is a shame. We are a tempting target for bullies, being weak and unusual, so easily mocked. Bullying is not stylish, and sites which publish bullies are demeaned.

Trans rights activists

“Cisfeminism is appropriation” Valerie wrote. What? Are you from the Internet Research Agency? Are you trying to cause a fight?

“This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our community standards,” possibly because I said I found it threatening. It could easily provoke a backlash against trans people. When David TC Davies sets women against each other, the Left loses. Most feminism is cisfeminism, and feminism addressing concerns which only cis women have does not thereby stop being feminism. Mine seems to be a reasonable position, hers an extreme one- which could make cis women antagonistic to us where they were not before, or more committed to the fight against us.

Germaine Greer and Julie Bindel have largely lost the fight to keep the cisfeminine monopoply on estrogenic bodies. I am not sure of that one. What are they fighting for, exactly? Some want to stop children taking puberty blockers, and many assert that we are not women, but whether we can take oestradiol is not in their control.

What is an estrogenic body, apart from a cis woman’s? Subject a cis woman to regular testosterone injections and wait to see how long it takes for her neurochemistry to shut down — that is, for her to slip into depression and even suicidal ideations. That’s because her neurological sex is incompatible with that exogenous endocrine intervention, or EEI for short. That’s what trans people face. Every day. I am not so clear on the effects of cross-sex hormones on depression. I feel more depressed now. Initially I felt much better. “My female brain needs female hormones”- we might say that, but how might a study demonstrate it?

Valerie has taught me a new acronym- I am always behind the curve- CAMAB. I get “assigned male at birth”- Correctly? Catastrophically? It is “Coercively”, which may apply to intersex folk, who suffer operations, but I am not sure it adds anything for trans people. All people suffer pressure to conform when brought up as boys or girls.

This article (which I found by searching for CAMAB) criticises the Feminist Women’s Health Center for not treating trans women. I fear being reduced to another statistical Tyra Hunter, she writes. Tyra, who died in 1995, had an 86% chance of surviving if treated properly but instead the ER staff and paramedics withdrew care and made derogatory remarks after cutting open her pants to reveal a penis.

Should Tyra Hunter be brought up? She is an extreme case, surely. I expect proper medical care, even though my GP seemed dismissive over my concerns about retrograde ejaculation. Should we pick on the Feminist Women’s Health Center for excluding trans women, when it does useful work for cis women? Why can’t we all get on? I am swithering, here. If I have to pick a side, I pick the trans women’s side over the cis women’s side- of course. If Tyra is an “extreme case” for me, is that racist- I know my whiteness will protect me from her fate? I am Tyra Hunter. As you treat the least well regarded of these, so you treat me. But I might keep quiet about it.

The one uniting characteristic of all women is a female neurological sex which lends itself to experience with misogyny. I don’t believe I have “a woman’s brain”. Culture is involved too, our ideas of what it means to be a man or a woman. And that belief may bring us allies, whom I might alienate.

I want to keep mainstream cis feminists on side. That means not being too provocative. I choose my words with care. I don’t assert I need oestrogen for my woman’s brain because I can’t prove it with scientific evidence: that’s a higher standard than feeling it to be true. I know that many different groups are being polarised, in part by Russian trolls, and that decreases our ability to work together for the common good. I need cis allies.

What would I say to Valerie or Patience? Er- please don’t make trouble for me, surely we can all get along-

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.

Marie Dean

The “cross-dressing Burnley burglar” is serving an indeterminate sentence for public protection, after breaking into houses and stealing underwear and being charged with burglary and voyeurism. S/he videoed herself on her phone, in the underwear in the victims’ bedrooms, and the quote picked by the Lancashire Telegraph to give its readers an entertaining feeling of disgust, loathing and derision was “I hope you don’t mind me borrowing your underwear. They smell nice.” Possibly the sentence would not have been so great but for the videos. The story is the worst kind for the trans community- predatory trans in your daughter’s bedroom, getting sexually aroused- but these are upsetting things to do, and ordinary decent readers of newspapers will want to read about them.

Then she was back in the news because she is on hunger strike. This got a sympathetic write-up in The Observer (the Guardian’s Sunday paper). She claims that the prison authorities “deny her chosen gender”, and it is not clear what that means. She has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, she is in a men’s prison, and she claims prison officials “refused to give hair straighteners, epilator or any makeup”. Hair straighteners get hot, and could conceivably be used to assault someone, but if a friend outside is willing to give her makeup, or she can buy it herself, I don’t see why she should be denied it. A letter from friends outside said she should be “given back her clothes”. Convicted prisoners wear prison uniform, but she should be entitled to wear women’s uniform.

In the same prison run by incompetent profiteers Serco, Jenny Swift killed herself. She complained of “bullying”, though Serco claimed the prison officer was being “robust”. She was angry at officers calling her “fella”. Prisons are understaffed and underfunded, with little or no attempt at rehabilitation and increasing suicide, self-harm and violence.

The indeterminate sentence indicates Marie Dean was seen as a danger to the public, and that is not just from burglary. The judge must have believed her behaviour could lead to physical harm. She has no right to be in a woman’s prison, as the Ministry of Justice has to take care of her safety and that of other inmates. She has the right to be treated with dignity, and that means being able to express herself as female and be free from violence. “Assessments will be made on a case by case basis” says the government.

The story is a gift to the TERFs, and in the Murdoch press Janice Turner took advantage. Corbyn must decide if he’ll sacrifice allies who aren’t prepared to see women’s safety compromised for the sake of dogma. This conflates two completely different issues, whether trans women should be allowed on all woman shortlists for appointing candidates for election, and whether a trans woman should be placed in a women’s prison. Gender identity does not erase biological reality, she argued. Well, so what? Jeremy Corbyn has decreed that gender self-identity is official policy. That means that transitioned women can get on all women shortlists, and that Marie Dean should be allowed to express herself as a woman and not be misgendered. It does not mean that she should be placed in a women’s prison. Marie Dean, and the disgust many will feel reading of her crimes, is irrelevant to how trans women should be treated, but trotted out by Janice Turner to oppose any trans rights at all.

Notour TERF Sarah Ditum played the same game in the New Statesman. If being denied hair straighteners can be presented as a cruel and unusual punishment, one might imagine that housing female prisoners with a voyeur would rate somewhere even higher. But in prison, as everywhere else, the expectation appears to be that women’s safety comes last. Belittle the difficulties the trans woman faces, and conflate the threat she poses with issues pertaining to trans women generally:  it’s so dispiriting to hear Jeremy Corbyn on Marr this weekend, saying things like “we should respect people however they identify” or “where you’ve self-identified as a woman, then you are treated as a woman.”

Also in the Murdoch press was the story that Women’s Aid was considering whether to employ trans women. That is, an organisation run from top to bottom by women, committed to the needs of their service users and women in general, with a great deal of expertise on those needs and with knowledge of the relevant law, would make a decision in the interests of their organisation. They may decide to continue refusing to employ trans women. However, that is boring, so to make the news entertaining we had a load of TERFs wheeled out to make “Help, help the sky is falling!” quotes, to make readers feel pleasurable disgust and fear.

Lancashire telegraph.
The Observer on Marie Dean, and the Guardian on the death of Jenny Swift.
The New Statesman.

“Who I am” v “Men in women’s toilets”

I am hopeful about greater rights for trans people, because our arguments are more winsome. We gain sympathy, and the TERFs and conservatives don’t. We lose on logic. “Piss off, you’re a man” they say, and keep reiterating. One TERF identifies as a MERF (Go on, guess-) they are talking of TIMs, trans-identified males, and M-T, male to trans rather than male to female. If a trans woman spends too much time with their websites and twitter accounts, and not with affirmation in the mainstream press from the likes of, say, Margaret Atwood, they can get wearing. I take encouragement from their desperation: But they’re men! Men! Men in women’s washrooms! They just get ignored. “Trans women are women” say female Labour MPs, and here’s Angela Rayner MP, who has an inspiring life story and is just pure dead brilliant:

We are also calling on the Government to reform the Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act 2010 to change the protected characteristic of “gender reassignment” to “gender identity” to provide proper protection for trans people.

Margaret Atwood, feminist: It is always – ‘What do you mean by the word?’ For instance, some feminists have historically been against lipstick and letting transgender women into women’s washrooms. Those are not positions I have agreed with.

We generate empathy. This is who I am. This is what I wanted, more than anything else in the world. This wins hearts, and where the heart is with us the mind will find a way. Cold rationality has nothing on sympathetic emotion.

This morning I fell off my bicycle again. I hate that road, narrow and busy, with a narrow path by the side that cyclists are permitted to use, which is potholed and muddy. I skidded in a muddy puddle, bent the supports of my mudguard, possibly knocked my derailleur out of alignment and the chain came off. And after, every motorist that passed me without courtesy, just a foot away, without care for my safety, shocked and angered me.

So, I don’t get propositioned, cat-called and touched up in the street. And I can sympathise absolutely with a woman who, having suffered a particularly egregious example, dodged into a toilet and was angry and shocked to see a trans woman. Normally it would be bearable but in that particular situation it was not. There, I have given you two examples where the slings and arrows of quotidian irritation might become too much, and perhaps you can supply your own. I feel if TERFs said, I saw this trans woman in the loo and it creeped me out, it was too much for me after what I had endured that day, they might win more people over. But instead they say, men in women’s clothes, whether trans women or not, might be a threat; and everyone knows they are exaggerating; and trans women cannot be blamed for people pretending to be trans women.

And if one said, I have given birth, I love my body, it is a woman’s body doing what a woman’s body does, and I loathe the simulacrum of a woman that is a trans woman- that might work too, though love of your own physicality need not mean despising someone else’s, nor excluding that person.

So they are reduced to calling us perverts, even paedophiles. It won’t work. Hate never does.

“Not all men” is misogynist. “Not all trans women” isn’t.

Everywhere we go, we are surrounded by men: in every place of work, on the streets, in shops, in pubs and in places of entertainment, a drink in their hand, their inhibitions loosening and their boisterousness getting louder. Out in the countryside you have to be somewhere remote before you are unlikely to see a man, and particularly remote before you have no chance. So, “Not all men” is derailing. It is irrelevant, and a way of picking away at a woman’s complaint, a false way of painting her as unreasonable or shrill. There may be a man, somewhere, who has never pushed a woman’s boundaries after a clear no, never used power wrongfully against a woman at work, never dehumanised or objectified a woman, but men do, it is women’s universal experience, and any man may be that boorish or worse.

“What about the men” is a similarly misogynist derailing tactic. Yes, men suffer from patriarchy, and from the hierarchies neoliberal capitalism creates; but women’s suffering needs to be acknowledged. There is time for discussing men’s problems, and women’s problems deserve time too.

These slogans, “Not all men” and “What about the men?” are useful to name and identify these derailing tactics. We will not let people move us on to other topics, the sufferings of men or even the (un)acceptability of derailing.

Trans women are not like men. We are less expansive, generally, because we try not to be noticed; we are not as loud; and particularly we are not ubiquitous. You may go for weeks without seeing one, and months without talking to one. So the problems cis women have with trans women are different. You may be reading trans stuff on the internet, and disagree with some of it. You may even overhear a trans woman saying something you don’t like. But you and your IRL friends will not have a great deal of direct, personal, unpleasant experience of trans people.

Patriarchy gives men privilege, but not trans women. We go from approximating to the default acceptable person to being visibly weird. So we are laughed at, attacked, and discriminated against. We don’t have the power at work.

So if someone complains about a trans woman who has directly affected them in a bad way, that should not be derailed. That is, to an extent, my problem- knowing nothing about trans women, some people might generalise from their first experience of one of us, so I have an interest in that experience being good. I want that complainant to process the experience and get a good experience from the next trans person. But if someone complains about a trans woman behaving in a way she objects to, but has only read about, that is entirely different. Not all trans women are like that, and what is the problem with it anyway? Many people behave badly, but that does not mean you should choose some characteristic of that person and hate everyone with that characteristic, for ever after.

Trans women: symbol and problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bras

You can’t wear binders all the time. A trans boy needs a bra, because you need to run about a bit as a teenager and it gets uncomfortable in the chest area without. What should that bra look like? Quite possibly like one from Yellowberry, a company set up to sell bras for teens and tweens by a seventeen year old woman, Megan Grassell. A social worker and sex ed teacher contacted them saying it would be good if their site could appeal to intersex, trans and non-binary teens, and got a brush-off: “We don’t feel that growing boys need bras”. See above.

A tweet complained, and Megan Grassell apologised, fulsomely. We are constantly working to be more inclusive with our marketing, models and brand stance. Of course: as a bra is an aspirational garment for many young girls, wanting to develop into women, Yellowberry wants its advertising to show the people children want to be. She drew down a storm onto her head, of mostly British TERFs abusing her for giving in to Trans bullies. Often the TERFs did not understand: If boys can say they are girls, then where are girls’ safe spaces? The approach was for boys who can’t get chest masculinisation surgery yet. These bullies are deliberately targeting businesses to open up female spaces to men out of fear of harassment, “Sceptic Shrew” said. Trans boys may be consigned to female spaces, but Sceptic Shrew would not object to that. She is only phobic about trans females, AMAB, not about trans males.

Bras stop musculature developing properly to support breasts, say some people, to me as rational as vaccine deniers. I did not like being bra-less at all when walking, if I had to hurry just a little, after my breasts developed. Yes, lots of women get great relief slumping on the couch in the evening, their bra finally off, but not during the day.

What is “feminist lingerie”? According to a British company, Neon Moon, it is feminist when your body shapes your underwear, not the other way about. That might be more for younger women than older, for slimmer rather than plumper. Their clothes look quite pretty, even sexy, with a black lace playsuit. It is the antithesis of the dawn of the Underwire, which would give an anorexic teenage boy cleavage, and he would not necessarily have to be AFAB.

Bras like breasts are very personal, expressing self-image, aspiration and insecurity. I see no harm at all in bras for “masquerade”, to quote a TERF tweet, as they are for self-expression even if only the wearer sees them. May we all be happy in our bras, and squabble less about the bras of others.