In the waiting room

In the waiting room, there are tiny canvases, about six inches square, with foreboding messages. Protect yourself against the dangers! Some are addressed to children, some to women:

With the glitter, even with the Rothko colours that could go either way. “Hello”! How lovely! But-

If you find a new friend, it is too good to be true. “The man I met was nothing but a scam.”

Bully and victim.

Disconnected. Mental. Hate. Confused. Fake. Insecure. Disgusting. Vulnerable. Stop.

The word on Olly’s phone is “Target”. Is it too much?

All too much? After the session, in the supermarket I hear a man snap out an order- as if he has had to fire his underling for stupidity and uselessness, but the underling has been made to work her notice by his managers specifically to belittle and insult him, and he has not the grace to rise above it but wants to make everyone else as miserable as he.

“Put the milk in the buggy!”

Surely, that could not be his partner? That could not be their child, in the pushchair?

I retuned the radio from the local station to Radio 3. “Hello,” said someone behind me. I ignored her. “Would you like us to move the tree?” The potted shrub was tickling my neck. “Maybe later,” she said.

Jean Hatchet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shock, Horror!!!

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

Domestic and Sexual Violence services for trans women

In any year, one in six trans women experience domestic violence, double the rate for cis women. Fortunately, women’s domestic and sexual violence services are trans inclusive, working to meet our particular needs, and other service users are supportive. Transphobes tell of challenges trans women pose in such services, but never tell the way those challenges are resolved, with sensitivity and common sense, for the benefit of all involved. The full story needs to be told. Jess Philips, who ran a refuge before becoming an MP, says such organisations are experts at risk assessment, and seek the help of LGBT charities to ensure they meet trans women’s needs, despite the funding restrictions they face.

Services say, a woman who identifies as a woman should be respected as a woman. They train their members on specific trans policy. Service users can be uncomfortable with each other for a lot of reasons, including homophobia and racism, and staff respond to these matters to keep everyone safe.

The other women told me that another woman was basically physically abusing the transgender woman in the refuge… When I talked to the transgender woman I said I know this is happening, why haven’t you said anything to me. And she said to me because I want to be safe and I don’t want to leave the place and nobody is going to take me in any other place, and I said but you’re not going to leave, you need to talk to me. And it was a big issue and she said this is the only place I’ve been able to get because I’ve been rejected everywhere in the refuge accommodation and this is the only place I got and that’s why, if I have to accept this from the other women in the refuge that’s fine because at the end of the day I know the staff and you are helping me and supporting me and that’s fine. And I said no, that’s not fine, that is absolutely not fine.

Residents can be lesbophobic as well as transphobic: ‘Oh she’s weird and probably she wants to kiss me, I’m going to punch her.’ We don’t want to be bringing residents into a situation where they’re going to face discrimination because we went through that journey in the seventies and eighties with BAME women going into refuges that were largely full of white women and experiencing a lot of racism and hostility, or just lack of understanding. Gender Recognition Act reform would have no relevance to how they deliver their services.

People say ‘Yes, but what if some man decides to dress as a woman and goes to the refuge’, and I’m like ‘That’s why we’ve got risk
Indeed, some trans women do not pass well, but we tend to pass better than some straight man dressing up for the first time. It is ridiculous to think such a man could fool women’s services. No service said they had used the Equality Act 2010 to exclude a trans woman. If the risk assessment recommended not admitting to a communal shelter, they would offer dispersed accommodation. Some staff thought the Equality Act exemption should be abolished.

The fears raised by Women’s Place UK are divorced from reality. Services do not ask for a gender recognition certificate or birth certificate- they operate on self-ID already. Trans inclusion “has been a really positive experience”.

Trans women remain vulnerable. When they seek refuge, they are victims of domestic or sexual violence, and then some people seek to exclude them by calling them a threat. Services see that this makes us so much more vulnerable, and want to help, to make sure we feel welcome from the start. Including trans women emphasises the gendered nature of domestic violence, against commissioners who move towards a gender neutral perspective.

There is prejudice in shelters. One black woman said that “the category of woman [is] designed very much in a white, Eurocentric, middle class way and everybody else is falling outside of that”. It made her more determined to support trans rights. It is appalling that the right-wing press calls us a threat, where the main threat to services is austerity and loss of funding.

Research carried out by Stonewall (pdf).

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?

Violence in the home

I have known three women assaulted by the men in their lives. One fought back, divorced him, and despises him, but two were broken by the experience.

I have certainly known others, silent about it, ashamed of it.

My uncle beat my grandmother. They lived in a council flat. She would not throw him out. His mental instability meant he needed care, himself: he would see wild animals appear to leap through the wall at him, as he read his Bible. The last time my father saw her alive, he told us “She would not stop screaming”. Dostoevsky describes a similar phenomenon among Russian peasant women.

J’s son beat her. She got more and more withdrawn and unconfident. Eventually the manager of the office rescued her from him.

I don’t know. I think it would damage my confidence too. “Did she hit him back?” asked a female friend, but I am not sure I would, not sure it would occur to me, I might just cower away. I might just hope he wouldn’t, again, or not often. I might make excuses for him. I would certainly look on the bright side- he’s lovely when he’s sober. You need to see how you can make your life better. If you can’t see, you just make the best of it.

I see women I admire, and think, but that could never happen to her and she would deal with it if it did and maybe she wouldn’t. How could you know, expect, blame?

The word “violence” in “domestic violence” rips the heart out of the word “domestic” with all its cosy connotations, yet those connotations remain for me, so I change the phrase to violence in the home, in the home, in the Home!, where there should be a refuge, where we should be safe and warm and comfortable and with people we love who love us. The safe space giving us strength to venture out into unknown and risky spaces, but there is no safety. There should be control and understanding, loving friendship, enjoyment peace refreshment at least respite, but this thing violence makes the world turn upside down it should not be like that and it is.

I think of my uncle sitting down too fast on that wooden settee and breaking it, or losing control of his bowels and having to leave suddenly when he visited for Christmas dinner long after Granny died. Pathetic, also needing looked after. So what to do? Appeal to his better nature? Break his spirit in terror so he would be terrified of doing it again because of the stronger person’s retribution? He does it because he can. He could control himself if he felt the need.

Titian the flaying of Marsyas