Easter is a time of reflection, not just resurrection. Indeed, for me, my faith is probably beyond resurrection. Passover and Ramadan likewise offer reasons to reflect. Last week I was invited to a Pesach Seder hosted by a gay Rabbi and his husband from a country where his sexuality is deemed inappropriate to depict to children, his same-sex marriage not recognised. The blend of modern and traditional Passover Haggadah was full of contemporary reflections on indigenous land, victims of war and displacement, 1970s feminism, civil and LGBT rights fights. It was not what I was expecting.
A part of me was dreading a return to a religious celebration but it was graciously, compassionately, intelligently and often humorously led, and was restorative to me that I can leave religion – although really it rejected me despite once being a Christian educator and preacher – but need not leave spiritual reflection.
One aspect of the Passover telling was the memory (history that happened to me, to paraphrase Rabbi Sacks who notes that Hebrew has no word for history, only memory) of those that had to die in the Red Sea and plagues for Israel to have its freedom from Egypt – therefore do not celebrate victory without remembering victims on both sides. The Duke of Wellington knew this well after the Battle of Waterloo saying:
“The next worst thing to a battle lost is a battle won.”
In all our modern conflicts, there are few winners, mostly losers. We are all victims of our vitriolic need to win and wage war in perpetual Them and Us conflicts around land, liberty, identity, religion and ideas.
This Easter Sunday morning, “Prisoner of hope” John Sentamu was on BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House arguing for talk, justice, and forgiveness instead of religious and political conflict. With lessons from the Good Friday Agreement, Israel and Egypt brokered peace etc, that we can take this Easter/Passover/Ramadan for Israel/Palestine, Sex/Gender, Leave/Remain, Left/Right, Russia/Ukraine…
Peace, love and understanding over militant politics and destructive disagreements are good messages, whether tied to a faith or not.
I’m not saying compromise necessarily but I am saying constructive communication because otherwise we are destroying ourselves and each other.
Not all conflicts are equal but in far too many each side believes itself to be the oppressed, the victim, never the oppressor. Some are so complex and rooted in millennia-old divisions, land, ethnicity or identity, that they’re probably not going away and we have to find ways to live with, rather than die from them.
At home, I have a piece of art made from barbed wire and a WW2 microphone (created by Angersaurus, aka Martin Swan). It’s called “War, it begins and ends with words.” We need to talk.
I’m well known for talking, and yet somehow I manage to listen too but my biggest regrets are not talking when I should have and listening more when shouting wasn’t working!
When my dad died during lockdown from Cancer, my saddest sense of loss was the regret that we had not talked enough, conversed or queried – there are so many unread chapters of his life that I will now never know. My greatest grief was that there would be no more conversations. Sometimes, I imagine him walking my garden with me sharing his wisdom and me wanting to show him things – he was such a proud gardener. At other times, it was us discussing politics and economics, culture and theatre at the breakfast table. I remember his fear that he would lose that with me if I transitioned but that he was relieved when my transition was about losing some body parts not losing my personality, love of debate, or my brain (some might argue that perhaps, as a trans person, thinking I could change sex was “losing my brain”!)
In the political space of the semi-manufactured culture wars, e.g., around sex and gender, women’s spaces and trans rights, I’ve learned to step back and listen more, to discover there are more than two sides, and taking the heat out of the hate means discovering nuance, compromise, compassion, and finding solutions not riding roughshod over each other or yelling “fascist, Nazi, TERF, ugly, scum, TIM, groomer, p*edo, pervert” etc at each other. A good listen right now is Episode 4 of Witch Trials: Terf Wars, the podcast series interviewing JK Rowling – whatever your position it’s worth a listen. This particular episode has some very balanced commentary from Helen Lewis who wrote the excellent Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights.
I’m no longer a Christian but I still long for a day of turning swords into ploughshares, tanks into tractors, tweets into how are you doing cards, and wolves laying down with lambs.
We need to move towards moderation and mediation, away from polarised positions that only escalate and fuel their fractious fights. Like Sentamu, but not because of faith, I’m a prisoner of hope because I believe we are all capable of compassion, listening, understanding, and change, and therefore I have hope this Easter weekend. And if all that fails, there’s always chocolate and wine or Scandinavian Aquavit which was the closest I came to an actual Easter celebration on Good Friday! Get round the table and talk – eating and drinking are a bonus but also a way to get us to the table.
Nobel Peace Prize & Martin Luther King, Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize winner, Desmond Tutu retired as Archbishop of Cape Town in 1996 and has now retired for good in the early hours of Boxing Day 2021. Perhaps his greatest legacy was as a humanitarian more than a churchman. The heaven (on earth) he believed in was equality-minded without prejudice, containing enemies and friends, black and white, gay and straight. His gospel was rooted in humanity, honesty and humour. His wisdom and wit will be sorely missed.
Desmond Tutu Quotes to live by
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”
“Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another.”
“When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others.”
“None of us comes into the world fully formed. We would not know how to think, or walk, or speak, or behave as human beings unless we learned it from other human beings. We need other human beings in order to be human. I am because other people are.”
“My father always used to say, ‘Don’t raise your voice. Improve your argument.’ Good sense does not always lie with the loudest shouters, nor can we say that a large, unruly crowd is always the best arbiter of what is right.”
“If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies”
“Our maturity will be judged by how well we are able to agree to disagree and yet continue to love one another, to care for one another, and cherish one another and seek the greater good of the other.”
“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world”
“I wish I could shut up, but I can’t, and I won’t.”
Moderation and Mediation
Tutu was too moderate for some, too extreme for others. White conservative Christians who were pro-apartheid hated him, some liberals regarded him as too radical whilst many black anti-apartheid activists saw him as too moderate and disagreed with his peaceful non-violence approach and criticism of Marxist Communism. His activism and anti-government stance was considered both too slow and too rapid for the change that was building. His approach that included dialogue, civil disobedience and international economic boycott of South Africa but not violence was too middle of the road for other activists.
“I have no hope of real change from this government unless they are forced. We face a catastrophe in this land and only the action of the international community by applying pressure can save us. Our children are dying. Our land is bleeding and burning and so I call the international community to apply punitive sanctions against this government to help us establish a new South Africa – non-racial, democratic, participatory and just. This is a non-violent strategy to help us do so. There is a great deal of goodwill still in our country between the races. Let us not be so wanton in destroying it. We can live together as one people, one family, black and white together.” — Desmond Tutu, 1985
Forgiveness and Reconciliation
In 1995, Tutu chaired South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission founded to promote reconciliation and forgiveness among both perpetrators and victims of apartheid.
“Retaliation gives, at best, only momentary respite from our emotional pain. The only way to experience healing and peace is to forgive. Until we can forgive, we remain locked in our pain and locked out of the possibility of experiencing healing and freedom, locked out of the possibility of being at peace.
Without forgiveness, we remain tethered to the person who harmed us. We are bound with chains of bitterness, tied together, trapped. Until we can forgive the person who harmed us, that person will hold the keys to our happiness; that person will be our jailor.
When we forgive, we take back control of our own fate and our feelings. We become our own liberators. Forgiveness, in other words, is the best form of self-interest. This is true both spiritually and scientifically. We don’t forgive to help the other person. We don’t forgive for others. We forgive for ourselves.” (Readers Digest by Desmond Tutu)
So 2021 is a New Year but which year? Are we on the precipice of a new dawn of enlightenment, a golden age of discovery, free trade and glories on the high seas? Well, one Tory MP and former Conservative leader, Iain Duncan Smith, has virtually suggested a return to piracy and world domination!
“I just wish I was 21 again, frankly, because my goodness what prospects lie ahead of us for young people now. To be out there buccaneering, trading, dominating the world again…” – IDS
Meanwhile in America, 2021 begins with a stuck record as Donald Trump is still tweeting out MAGA like he’s original and not on the way out.
That makes Donald Trump the great pretender and lifting slogans out of 1950s and 1970s Britain. Fortunately, it’s only 18 days till America gets to play a new record.
Sadly, the UK is also changing its tune and has just fulfilled the 1975 EEC and 2016 EU membership referenda by Leaving the EU.
Back in 1975, 2/3 voted Remain – 90% of Tory MPs, the Liberals and most of the N Ireland parties. The SNP, Plaid Cymru, Communists, DUP, SF and NF voted Leave – it’s worrying how many National Front policies are close to those at the heart of this government again. The Labour Party was split with its left-wing and a majority of unions backing Leave, as did 2/3 of its membership at conference, whilst the MPs were 50/50 and a majority of the then shadow cabinet and leadership were in favour of Remain.
It’s fascinating how things change or revert, or don’t change at all. My biggest fear is that 2021 will be an age of continued polarised conflict, a nation and self-first attitude that imposed constraints on immigration and refugees, that attempts to go it alone rather than work it out together. Covid has exacerbated this for many nations too, and yet what we forget is that, along with climate change, it also reminds us that we are all in this together, I guess that’s up to us, as much individually, as nationally, certainly I now spend more time in the borderless land of Zoom now than worrying about sovereignty, control or borders.
I’m glad Boris Johnson is healthy again so I feel no remorse in criticising him and past Tory governments’ health policies. The NHS would not have needed a “human shield” or been “overwhelmed” (as per Pope Bojo’s Easter address) had it not been underfunded for a decade or been a political football kicked about during Brexit and elections. Our “greatest national asset” deserved treasuring and resourcing in the good times so that during the bad, the human shield could use it rather than be used by it!
We have 5x fewer hospital beds per capita than Japan and South Korea – some of the countries best handling Coronavirus, 3x fewer than Russia or Germany, 6x fewer ICU beds than Germany, 3x fewer ventilators than Russia.
We have the 4th highest bed occupancy rate of 41 nations, with typically less than 5-15% capacity left for crises. The NHS is overwhelmed.
“The number of hospital beds for general and acute care has fallen by 34 per cent since 1987/88, the bulk of this fall due to closures of beds for the long-term care of older people.” – King’s Fund Data
That’s the very group Covid-19 is affecting the most.
“In 2018/19, overnight general and acute bed occupancy averaged 90.2 per cent, and regularly exceeded 95 per cent in winter, well above the level many consider safe.” – King’s Fund Data
Out of 53 nations in the WHO greater European area, only Georgia and Andorra had fewer acute hospital beds per capita than the UK!
People shouldn’t be a human shield – and NHS staff should be properly shielded with decent PPE. A Human Shield is the language of terrorism. Underfunding the NHS is economic and political policy domestic terrorism! It’s an act of national vandalism and misguided austerity ideology. It’s not just hindsight saying this, doctors and nurses bodies, non-right wing parties, patient user groups, have been saying this for years. It’s too late to listen now.
Boris Johnson has used the rhetoric of Churchill and termed Covid a “national battle”. The language of warfare is about right, only the war is on our NHS. Stay Home, yes. Protect Our NHS, Save Lives, YES. But the latter should have been being done through Government policy the last decade. Invest in healthcare and its professionals, pay nurses, recruit doctors, appreciate foreign staff, build new hospitals, support mental health – that will Protect Our NHS and Save Lives, pandemic or not!
Stats and facts may be boring but they are real people, real lives, real stories – ones we shouldn’t have to be hearing because in a modern enlightened society we should be doing better and not perpetuating gender-based violence towards women and girls.
In the UK, between 1 in 3 and 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and between 1 in 8 and 1 in 10 women experience it annually – 1.4m people. Less than half of all incidents are reported to the police, but they still receive one domestic violence call every minute in the UK. For bisexual and trans women the figures are worse – 1 in 2.
Women as victims of homicide in the UK are up.
The majority in the home.
The majority by partners and ex-partners.
There were 241 (and that one matters) female victims of murder, manslaughter and infanticide in the 12 months to the end of March 2019, up 10% on the previous year. Almost half (48%) of female victims were killed in a domestic homicide, with the suspect a partner or ex-partner in 38% of cases.
Whilst we are looking at ending early release for terrorists it should happen too, for abusers – some are let out on license and tagging after as little as 25% of a short sentence served.
“We have another form of domestic terrorism, it’s the violence meted out to women and girls in the home by the very people they should be safe around.”
Sexual harassment at work is experienced by some 50% of women, worse still – it is 66% among younger women aged 18-24.
33% of girls are sexually harassed at school, 66% are sexually harassed in public. Schools should be safe spaces but are still half as bad as on street harassment. It should be zero. And they are most likely to be abused in their own homes.
Girls identifying as feminists are being bullied and are put off entering politics by the toxic abuse towards female MPs.
Gender-based violence is a reality, though there are victims and perpetrators of all genders. Of course, we want to end violence and abuse against all people, by people of all genders. The reality, though, is that 3x as many women as men are killed in domestic situations. A third of the men are also killed by men and another third by women who had been abused by men. 15x more men than women are convicted of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is massive, over a million women a year, 10% of all recorded crime, but only 10% are prosecuted, fewer still convicted. Half of women in prison are themselves the victims of domestic violence.
It’s not getting better – it needs to.
It is time to stop violence against women and girls be it domestic, sexual coercion and violence, or ritualistic FGM. Misogyny, molestation, mutilation and murder of women and girls must stop.
Don’t send a card for Valentine’s, send a message – NO MORE violence or abuse. Let girls grow into women, unmolested, unharmed.
This is part two of my last decade’s reflections on self and society, mainly the former, but ‘who I am’ resides in a gender constructed society too, and that has been my journey working out how to be me, whoever that is, in a world that gives me just two boxes, neither of which fit. I’ve written nearly half-a-million words in my diary the last ten years, it’s been a rough but rewarding ride and I’m re-reading them all, selecting what stands out, to see how I feel now. Part One can be read here. This was meant to be the next five years but instead, it’s just 2015, the year of shock Tory election win, the year before Brexit, the year before my op. Terrorism, gender dysphoria, mental health, PIP, CBT, squirrels, dreams, death (not my own), language, poetry, orchids and Doctor Who.
Diary entries – 2015
New Year is marred by the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices massacre. Whatever one’s beliefs about their satirical output, freedom of speech is vital. #JeSuisCharlie rises in response and millions gather in Paris and across France in mourning and protest. Even in Norwich, French nationals and locals numbering some 200 gathered at a vigil.
Had a fabulous time, apart from the early start, scriptwriting from scratch under pressure and filming with BBC Voices in the TARDIS and green screen, playing Doctor Who, with Esther as my assistant, encountering a future version of Earth without stigma or discrimination for Time to Change. I took Jelly babies on set as a homage to Tom Baker. My regeneration was more of a transformation!
At One Billion Rising event, chatted to a friend who said “I don’t think I have ever covered so many topics of conversation in the space of about 10 mins in my life before” – try being inside my head!
Great fun being an atypical speaker at a school sixth form during LGBT History Month and doing an alphabet soup sex and gender ed talk. Perhaps my own current label bio might read along these lines: Greysexual, Pomomental, Metasexual, Sapiosexual, Emosexual (I get aroused when people cry!), Agnostigender, Polysensual, Gynephile, Androappreciative, Biflirty! I love how young MOGAI folk are moving beyond LGBT to hundreds of ever-evolving identity reflections.
Our regular Gender and Sexuality (GAS) group met to discuss Feminist no-platforming, SWERFS, TERFS & biological sex essentialism – a topic that was only going to get more toxic in coming months. So-called ‘TERF’ wars kicking off online – a turf war between sex and gender and their intersection.
We launched non-binary east anglia online as a support and information group. Did not anticipate its growth and how many younger trans people are more inclined to non-binary identities and semi-transitions. I’m certainly drawn to the human (h)interland.
Sleep all over the place and having bonkers dreams that I can’t decipher the origins of. For instance, this one, an odd dream, seemingly in Colchester in a conference centre needing to find a loo, there was a queue and then a girl in front says come in with me and it’s a double loo with heated seats so we co-share. Ending up, in the dream, going back in to get a coat I’d left there, after it was shut, and girl accompanies me, opens up, cries, I get aroused, console, then out of nowhere her kid appears and they both notice my arousal which I apologetically say that never happens on HRT (except when girls cry – now what’s the Greek for tears?) next her estranged boyfriend/child’s father shows up to get kid. I explain to her my current asexuality and sort of fudge description of my existing relationship. Meantime I start tidying stuff, that wasn’t there – tools, clothes, boxes and emerge from loo with not just my left behind coat but boxes of tidied stuff. Come out to my partner in the car park and try to explain I only went in for my coat and why it’s several hours later and I’ve loads more stuff with me! I tell Esther the dream and she says I should have gone for it with her, I said not with the kid and the father in the toilet too! My mind would have a field day with Freud and Jung.
Next day, on the loo, I come up with a dystopian novel plot set in futuristic post-austerity Greece with an opening chapter set at a modern bisexual Socratic dinner party akin to Plato’s Symposium and the ascending ladder of sex, love and beauty. I’ve always been drawn to the aesthetic and sapiosexual side of love rather than the act of sex which I’ve mostly found painful and an anticlimax even with the best partners, contexts and deepest longing and loving. I’m increasingly comfortable with being asexual and suspect it will continue post-op, if I go through with it.
Spend the week draining most of emo-psych energy worrying about forthcoming car MOT and how I’ll afford it, expending huge effort not to spend, to save enough for any car bills. In the end, my reliable 8yo Zafira passes with no costs – the two broken tail-lights held together with sellotape passed. The whole process and worry exhausted me, so I spent the afternoon and early evening sleeping to recover! People without mood disorders don’t realise the energy required sometimes just to hold it together – like my sellotaped lights, exercise self-restraint and save for bills like this. And by people I mean my psychiatrist!
Next, it was my turn for an MOT, with my lovely GP surgery which feels more like an audience for my bipolar comedy routines. Apparently, I do entertain them, brighten up their day, especially after other patients show up late, or complain a lot. So lovely phlebo-nurse says I’ve shrunk, put on weight, and my bad cholesterol has been very naughty, but my daily drinking habits are fine – something with which my psychiatrist would strongly disagree, and did! 20 units of rioja and 10 of whisky on bad sleep weeks. So I am now 12 stone 1, but 11 stone 11 with my boots off, less once I’d stripped more layers off, anyway we compromised and agreed to put 11 stone 7 in the notes, after all, breasts must weigh something!
Getting busy on the talks front speaking at UEA for Amnesty on human rights and torture and at Aviva on gender and mental health this week. Who would have thought that this scared of public speaking kid would ever be talking or teaching in front of others.
Bipolar moods mean that when I’m up I’m on top of the world and also in a world of my own where little affects me. When I’m down, I’m like a flat balloon where every comment punctures and deflates me further, I feel everything, with the world that I’m usually on top of, instead, weighing me down, sitting on my shoulders, like a weary muscle-worn Atlas.
Had tea with my ex-vicar of 5 years ago, and we discussed how I felt about trans op possibility (he was also a psych nurse). He ended up saying I should write a book.
Financial stress, internal politics at a work project making me feel like no longer being involved – wrote an angry email but did not send. I’m anxious about my op too and appropriately taking cats in for neutering, stressful in itself. Not feeling like waking up tomorrow. Outside vicious 50mph winds ripped the felt off the shed roof.
Did 4 hours DIY and clearing today. It has taken me 5 years to get round to rebuilding some shelves, only this time with estrogen I swear they took twice as long, I screwed in all the wrong places, assembled them upside down, and ended up one leg short!
To op or not to op? Part of me wants to just get it out the way, I’m 48 and still have persistent dysphoria, so not a passing fad, Over 40 years of feeling this way, nearly 10 years of living as Katy but avoiding the more drastic physical options. I’m quite happy some of the time as genderqueer non-binary and am quite realistic that an operation won’t make me fully female, yet society makes being in between even harder than being traditionally binary transgender, so it feels like having to opt for one or the other and meantime juggling the endocrinology-bipolar-energy issues.
It’s 70 years today since the liberation of Bergen Belsen, another example of man’s inhumanity to man and what happens when you scapegoat an entire – or rather several – people groups, dehumanise, persecute, incarcerate and attempt to wipe them out. It is 33 years since I visited Belsen as a 15-year-old, the same age as Anne Frank who died there just months before its liberation. It left indelible memories on me and a life-long belief in human rights for all people.
Reflecting that it’s 1095 days since my last suicide attempt, feels like Suicides Anonymous Recognising that one is only a dashed moment away from mental health relapse gives my wellbeing a dose of respect and regular reality check.
In May, Esther finds a new place to live and moves out. Initially, a shock and many including my mum think that we’ve broken up. Instead, it actually feels fine and liberating to have my space back and to still be in a relationship yet each of us able to express ourselves and our environment the way we like.
Election day and apparently, you can vote in your pyjamas, whilst drunk, or high – mental incapacity of any kind does not lose you your right to vote, being in prison does.
As usual, I stay up all night to follow the results.
Tory majority of 10. How? All three other male leaders resign. Women leaders of minority parties all stay – after all they improved their vote share. LibDems lost 15% and Scottish Labour was reduced to a single seat, losing 40 of its 41 seats to the SNP, Labour gained in London but not enough to balance losses elsewhere. I suspect we will have a Tory government for some time to come and the LibDems will be tarnished by being in coalition, also for years to come.
Charing Cross GIC appointment and endocrine with Dr Leighton Seal, breast exam, genital exam including rather oddly a testicle sizing with a cross between what looked like prayer beads or anal beads, like a ring sizer! Was told breasts were well above average development and C going on D. Not sure what letter size my soon to be ex-balls were!
Cooked a rather extravagant and fabulous 5-course Italian “Mum Dine With Me” meal for my mum’s 80th birthday. An age that I doubt I’ll ever make or want to.
Collected and kicked out over a hundred slugs during late-night slug and snail patrol around the raised veg beds. Aided and abetted by cats clambering on my back as I bent down to scoop up the slimy invaders and other kittens trying to knock over my collecting jar!
Got involved in mediating a mental health intervention and advocating for a friend in trouble at local Uni. Exhausting but a revelation to support and witness another bipolar/BPD sufferer and realise how I sometimes come across to people, ie space invading, intense, hyper, racing, loud, forceful. It’s tough being me or around me sometimes and I appreciate those that understand me.
Dreamt I woke up in bed with a topless Barack Obama! Now, what’s that about?
Get interviewed in NHS magazine about my transition.
Begin regular Wellbeing support meetings with excellent mental health staff helping to ground me. Also, start CBT sessions – shame you only get 6.
Go to the dentist for the first time in fifteen years – terrifying and lucky I didn’t leave it any longer as gums were beginning to get seriously damaged. Hadn’t been able to afford it but now I’m on part benefits I can get free NHS dentist. Fortunately, the dentist is female, friendly and foreign, my favourite trio.
Life is and has been hard for 10 years and despite the downs and dark days, I am simultaneously at my happiest…But need to end this chapter of indecision and move forward…Because I’m stuck. In no man’s land … literally… Neither one thing or the other…Can’t swim or beach as still a half-and-half entity that doesn’t feel a whole…My bits don’t function have always been anorgasmic and get aroused by touch, empathy, intelligence during dinner and not in bed, lol…So just want rid really of something that’s non-functional. Surgery probably won’t correct the feelings in my head but it will stop the debate in my head and end a chapter that I really want to be closed so that I can live my 50s rather than be on constant pause as my 40s have been.
I’ve taken up drawing again and find guitar, music, reading, gardening, cooking, photography and writing settle and calm my mood better than any pills I’ve ever been prescribed.
Hosted a party at mine but then crashed mentally, a friend took over the food, Esther introvertly hid, and my only calm point was playing the guitar on weed.
Did a Human Library for dozens of 15yo pupils at a school in Acle and it topped the day. Their questions, and reflections on us as books and how honest and open we were without taking offence, was, well, how ‘light touch’ rather than ‘over-examined’ education should be.
Few people go out to dinner and end up discussing Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Malay, Nabatean, Linear B, Dutch, Italian, Cuneiform and Hieroglyph! But thanks to Esther, Alison, Ng and his family – we did.
Pride again and thousands attend. Also, did a trans diversity and growth talk with Christian opposition in attendance and a politics panel, sharing the stage with Lady Phyll and Clive Lewis MP.
My series of CBT sessions is ending and I’m trying to work out how I will self-manage going forward. Write myself a SANITY acrostic:
S – Self-acceptance/self-love
A – Authenticity, being yourself
N – Natural/your ‘normal’ state/neurodiverse/nurturing self
I – Integrated & intact/holistic wholeness
T – Treasuring your voyage, travelling YOUR journey
Y – You-nique, enjoy being one-of-a-kind, not one-of-a-crowd
I can be MAD, BAD and SAD (a trio of affective disorders) but I can also be glad but rarely trad and who I am is no fad!
My neighbour and friend, CJ, and partner of Linda Bellos dies of cancer after years of pain and survival. For all Linda’s criticism of gender and our fiery but friendly discussions, they have both respected and supported me through my transition and I will miss CJ’s kindness, humour and big Irish heart immensely.
I’m in a good place right now but I’m continually reflective on the times when I’m not. I’m also acutely aware of how I can be overwhelming, or lack a filter, and how hard that is to self-control. Yet the same energy also makes me hyper-productive and creative, it just comes with a side effect of inappropriate! I’m not dissing the meds I could be on, I just found they numbed me, and I was more at risk on them than off them. I’ve battled 3 years off them and have been the better for it. But getting human health support has been a struggle all the psychs want to give out is pills for my ills, not talk for my walk!
Meanwhile, my self-comforting OCDs get crazier. I now order my books by colour and size and have recently taken to only reading books that match my outfit or room colour!
Get community mental health help filling in a PIP application, an exhausting process I couldn’t do on my own.
I know I’m ever so slightly nuts but I think I am a metahuman hybrid – crossed with a red squirrel, yes red not grey – I am an endangered scarce breed, indeed I am unique – the human squirrel. I have just beaten Bonnie and Clyde, the resident garden grey squirrels, to the walnut tree harvest this year, they started on it yesterday. Today, I crawled along branches, climbed ladders, and harvested 480 walnuts (I counted them) – and there’s still the same number left in the tree. Over the next week, I collected another 1900 more, also hand-counted. Found that I can make walnut ink from the husks, garden paths from the broken shells, and could actually eat the walnuts, if only I liked them!
National Poetry Day and I attempt only my second poem in 30 years, it is pretentious and certainly doesn’t scan, called ‘First Light’ I enjoyed the creative distraction and process of writing, even if not the resulting form:
Night’s obsidian obscurity
draped in its sable cloak
As a necromancer’s nefarious
theft of yesterday’s sun
The dark Cimmerian conspiracy
Inconsistently lunar lit
Stolen illustrious illumination
Swift to flight, slow to return
Just as Stygian stealth enveloped
Sun’s setting the night before
Swirling caliginous clouds obfuscate
And bury its subdued disc
Sleep inconveniently intervenes
Sending all to slumber
Except the stars that puncture
Night’s indistinct ink
Yet dawn’s crepuscular creep
First blush of orange and pink
Painting pastel perimeters
Drawing forth pre-dawn
Light leaks, dispels darkness
Night’s mourning veil withdraws
Dawn declares its intent
A new canvas is prepared
Twilight tweets its birth
Nature’s nests peep forth
Panes of windows warm
Rivulets of moisture drip
Aurora invokes sleepy sunrise
Calls to creation’s creatures
Awake, shake off the night
Day’s divine design awaits
Wow, NHS Charing Cross GIC rang me offering a transfer to Mr Bellringer at Parkside for private surgery. The surgery would be in a couple of months, not a couple of years. The offer is being made to only longest-standing/waiting patients. Shocked, pleased, petrified now. What do I say/do? I asked what the difference would be, apart from the timescale, they said better food! That’s enough for me.
SHIT Trans Op date is 6 Feb 2016!!!!
Crumbs, cripes, Holy crap Batman, Parkside ring up with my health roadmap for the next few weeks and months mapped out and all on dates I can make – no excuses! No turning back.
Psych appointment with a quiet unassuming Doctor who, after 75 mins, had me down as bipolar II with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – so now I’m MAD, BAD, SAD, and GAD!
Pre-op GIC appointment with Mr Bellringer and the wonderful nurse Iffy, they totally relaxed me with their own humour and hugs. Esther offered herself as a model upon which to make my post-penectomy and orchidectomy labia, Mr Bellringer said with wicked seriousness and humour “I have to work with the available material”. Thanks mate!
Always found it odd that the most beautiful of flowers – the orchid with four times as many varieties as mammals on the earth, is so called because of its ugly testicular root tuber! Greek ὄρχις orchis means “testicle”. Happy to go ahead with a conversion from testicles to flower though! I’m always rescuing forlorn garden centre orchids and nursing them back to beauty on my bedroom windowsill.
Now onto the 6 weeks of pre-op HRT withdrawal.
Diary entries – 2009-14, 2016-19
Part I is here. Obviously, a part III is needed as 2015 was full-on and 2016 was significant. I write some 25,000-75,000 words a year in my diary and this was a thin year word-count wise but I hope the selections above offer an insight into the madness, melancholia, mayhem and musings that are me.
Everyone from Spotify to the Trainline is wrapping up our year or decade in music or travel. The biggest gifts to myself that I unwrapped over the last decade were my transition(s) and life purpose/career reboot(s). All the while managing mental health which included suicide attempts, eviction notices, near death-by-debt, and ever-growing physical back pain and arthritis. So as we go from the twenty-teens to twenties I’m reflecting on a decade of change – mine and society’s. (Skip the social commentary and jump to my personal diary entries if you prefer)
Politically, nothing seems to have changed – indeed, Change UK a new political party lasted all of 10 months. 2010 brought us a Tory coalition and 2020 brings us a Tory landslide – or rather mudslide as it seems as if we’ll sadly slip more into the mire of a Dickensian depression (socio-economic and/or mental health) for many and little England populist nationalism for others.
Internationally, though we are leaving the EU at a time when more of our European neighbours than a decade ago are living and working here, propping up our NHS, social care, agriculture, and hospitality sectors. Many have made their lives, relationships, and families here. Over the last decade, I have gained a Dutch partner having begun the decade with an American one.
But, always look on the bright side, I can now Netflix and chill (in the asexual sense) since it launched in the UK in 2012, stream music via Spotify, take photos on a phone to rival a camera and yet my average internet speed is barely better than 10 years ago! Some things have stood still in the countryside creating a digital divide between city and county. In 2010, BT Openreach launched ADSL2+ with up to 20Mbps speeds, I managed 2.4Mbps back then rising to 9Mbps with fibre in 2015 but now averaging 3-5Mbps as the service has deteriorated and I’m part of the unreachable left behind 2% rather than the 10% who can now get 1000Mbps+.
Human rights wise, we gained the Equality Act in 2010, same-sex marriage in 2014 and civil partnership equality on the last day of 2019! The fear among many is that LGBT+ rights may go backwards if the UK under a more right wing pro-Brexit Conservative government emulates US Republican reversals of liberal social diversity.
Technology, society and politics aside, I’m more interested in my personal and psychological changes or dramas, my partner calls me a “drama queer”! I’ve been in therapy at least twice in the last decade and stopped dating therapists (those I wasn’t seeing professionally)! In terms of the dating game, I’ve gone from doubtful male heterosexual divorcee to confirmed trans non-binary asexual open relationship.
Looking over my diary for the last decade has been illuminating and encouraging, having navigated its more depressing chapters. I’m closing in on 53 but my 40s and 50s have been more frightening and fulfilling than any other decade of my life. I now live a life that I’m happy to still be living and not a suicide statistic, though I must have exhausted and exasperated my partners and therapists!
Diary entries – 2009
Never been more tired, in debt, sleepless, inundated, buried, yet happy to be myself – who am I? The question at the nub of spirituality, philosophy & therapy.
Joined the Norwich Pride collective ahead of our city’s first Pride.
Delivery man called me Mr Went then said his wife would die for my nails, all the time I was standing there in a pink robe.
Decree Nisi came through. Fifteen years marriage to a Christian psychiatrist over.
Started seeing transgender GP specialist Dr Richard Curtis at Transhealth.
Changed my name by deed poll to Katy Jon Went. Felt right and that including ‘Jon’ was transparently genuine and historically accurate.
Got dumped by email. First girlfriend post-divorce. Feel like a teenager! Taught me to risk again though.
My dad thinks I should get testosterone injections not oestrogen patches. To “man up”.
Someone asked me what I was more afraid of, the gender change surgery or scuba diving … I said scuba, the answer is telling!
Went to San Francisco to do a sex and relationships workshop. Met a girl. Fell in love. First time at 42 years of age I ever made the first move on a girl after spending the whole weekend being afraid of her beauty and aura.
Previous partner becomes abusive and malicious creating false criminal accusations. Police get involved. Scary stuff. Traumatic. Mum backs me but dad says no smoke without fire.
Proposed to American girlfriend in a heart-shaped pool at a hot spring, got a yes!
So tired on the way home from delivering a foreign nationals diversity and language training at a Yorkshire prison that I slept for an hour in the car (in a layby) and nearly veered into the path of a lorry – which got me thinking as after I wished I’d just died…I still wish for the burden of the gender dilemma to disappear, to take away the pain of never being one or the other, of never being happy, without removing the happiness I do get from my increased genderfree expression. Even hormones seem an irreversible decision that would affect not only me but my relationship. I need to talk, to find the ever elusive answers, the people that open me when discussing how I feel are my US girlfriend and a trans man I met over there. How to have these conversations and not burden them with my thoughts and true internal despair. I feel I have to choose between love and gender and cannot have both.
The sun is out and it feels like the darkest day of my life, with suicidal yet manageable feelings twice in a week, absolute unremitting sadness about unsolvable gender and unrealisable relationship and financial/legal pressures…it is too much but I won’t kill myself, but what will I do, I don’t know…
I’m a jumper, diving in and examining myself from within a relationship or situation rather than deliberating at the edge and never doing anything. Yet on gender, I’m always on the cliffedge too afraid to jump and overexamining my options.
A US trans man friend of my partner said they felt like I had the energy, essence and mind of another FTM ie a woman becoming a man, it’s like there’s a man inside my girl inside my guy. A Russian doll of a guylemma.
Many of my new friends have only known me as Katy and they are 100% convinced I am fully female stuck in a male body … I am not … there lies the dilemma. When they call me woman, female, I close up, when they call me girl, feminine, or female essenced/energied I open up, but I still find guy and male energied also true though words like man and masculine not, I find male a neutral term. I guess I feel majority female essenced with a significant residue of male energy and mixed mind, something that I want to honour and be honest with, it doesn’t make me male or female, man or woman, it makes me me with no box to live in and a discomfort for me in conforming and that may lead to embarrassment for others but like Spike Milligan said I can only be myself all the others are taken.
Feeling my loneliness, crying wanting to dial back the clock and start over as a child and just be more honest about my loneliness and gender stuff rather than just being brave. I want to wrestle, argue, be tickled, smile, anything to force my face and body out of gloom since being depressed is perversely and paradoxically an effort and an emotional muscle held taught that needs to relax and break out into a smile.
I have both been male to suppress my female feelings and been female to avoid being the male I hate, or the hatred of men and their hardness, their unfeeling, their bullying, their insensitivity. If gender is a construct, what am I? A freemale or female?
I’ve had a strange 3 days: gay Wednesday, guy Thursday, girlie Friday!
My and Norwich’s first Pride was awesome, free, diverse and 5x bigger than anyone expected. Went to 3 after parties, had people come on to me, and nobody gave a fuck about where I was at with my gender, I was just Katy to them.
Exploring bisexuality whilst dithering over gender. Not sure about either!
Broke up amiably after a year with US fiancee realising despite our love our lives had different directions and my gender decisions were still an unknown dimension. She taught and challenged me loads on authenticity and knowing what I want. (In 2019 I got to revisit her)
Started taking hormones. Felt like finally having the right fuel in the tank! Wonder if I can get away with hormones only to defeat my gender dysphoria?
Dumped the makeup and heels and fell in love with Dr Martens. Get regularly told by other trans people that I’m letting the side down, not making enough effort to be feminine! I prefer the company of trans men, drag kings and butch lesbians. Not sure who I’m attracted to or who I identify as.
Diary entries – 2011
Explored BDSM from the other side of the equation (having done submission in 2009). Psychologically interesting.
Fell in love with someone. Complex and complicated situation. Continued loving others too. Love isn’t always logical nor exclusive. Can’t decide whether I’m polyamorous or monogamous, needy or giver, a dreamer or a realist in relationships.
Tried stand-up comedy. Scarier than coming out!
Joined the Muff Scouts – not just full of butches but for women of all types and origins!
Winter exacerbating low mood and prescribed Tamezepan which I add to my Valerian solutions to sleep deprivation.
Christmas is the focal point for family/trans/marriage stress memories and repeats, not to mention financial anxiety and present pressure, mixed up misgendering from the extended family. Mum is a valiant supporter who although finds it difficult is determined to learn and be loyal and loving.
Diary entries – 2012
Paradoxically under all the financial stress, depression, insomnia, dysphoria I am actually content and happy, just can’t change some things so trying to learn the grace to accept those I can’t and those I refuse to accept to remain stubbornly optimistic in the face of overwhelming odds! 2012 resolution is to write, read and laugh more.
Falling months behind on rent.
Get documentary made about me and my transition including go-ahead from Dr Curtis to join surgery waiting list – despite being not entirely sure I wanted it.
Feeling suicidal, mainly money worries and exhaustion re sheer daily survival but also relationships, gender, family acceptance and chronic insomnia. Also losing my faith (in God).
Intelligent stimulation is sometimes the only thing that keeps me going, I wouldn’t be without my emotions either, but my mind – thoughts and feelings, constantly tugging at each other like Plato’s passion and reason paired horses of a chariot and Jung/Klein’s (rather than Freud’s) id/superego trying to manage them. My head is like a constant boardroom meeting during a semi-hostile takeover/merger … it’s vigorous (in its true etymological sense), never boring and sometimes entertaining to watch!
Was told by my psychiatrist that I was the most reluctant transsexual he’d ever met!
Attempted suicide by pills through bawling tears – was interrupted by a friend and neighbour in the early hours and survived. Looked after and fed lasagna comfort food by friends and lovers.
Got referral to community psych team and so begins the journey to mental wellness as well as gender transition.
Realised my faith in religion and possibly God is fully gone.
Adopted a hedgehog orphan.
Break up with unavailable relationship.
Meet Esther at Hostry Festival and begin platonic and then not so platonic relationship.
Take part in massive counter-EDL protest in Norwich.
Diary entries – 2013
Determine to do more activism, speaking and writing and wind down the software business particularly now Google gives away for free what I used to sell. The world is changing and I can’t keep up.
Esther and I contemplate whether I should have surgery. Esther is content either way but says “do you know a pussy would suit you”! Never sure in my house whether that means a cat on the lap, or pussy between the legs!
Finally, diagnosed with Bipolar (well Cyclothymia at first, later upgraded in 2014 to first persistent MADness and then full type II BADass) after a decade of mixed depression and rapid cycling hypomanic mood swings. Began a mood map daily diary, also charting insomnia, which I’ve kept for 7 years now and has been effective at managing or at least mitigating Bipolar off meds.
With help from the Wellbeing mental health service going above and beyond the call of duty and taking months of paperwork, I actually get on the welfare and benefits system with them expressing surprise that I hadn’t applied years ago.
Diary entries – 2014
Began 2014 having been on hormones 3.5 years and have a pre-surgical consult in 3 months. New Year’s was spent having dinner with Linda Bellos, someone who 5 years later would become a leading figure in the gender critical aka ‘TERF’ anti-trans rights movement but who in 2014 was fully supportive of my transition. Rights can be gained and lost, people can change for the better or the worse.
2014 is the year I begin writing, blogging, commentating in earnest, initially via blogger and bubblenews, then wordpress and my own site. I sit and write each morning to the streaming, currently winter, sun pouring in the windows, through a dangling crystal, casting rainbows on the ceiling and compete with cats demanding cuddles or chasing the rainbows across the room.
My dreams are rarely remembered but when they are, they’re vivid and desperate for analysis. One night it’s a turbulent hour dreaming in Spanish, Hebrew and French with 3ft tall little people arguing over who was the shortest, other people with Tefal ad big eggheads – but looking like Victorian circus freak show exhibits, a random actor generator – where the people in the dream where mixed up halfway in a giant slot machine to confuse the story further, half the dream spent fetching chairs and stools for more people to join the audience in the dream including random friends from up to 28 years ago. Simultaneously exhausting and weird! I think the language elements come from discussing Ladino yesterday. The rest comes from my polyunsettled mind and probably Twin Peaks crossed with an Andalucian game show format run by gypsies.
Foul mood handling comes and goes, feel inexorably dragged backwards into a dark damp deep cave that offers no comfort, hope or solace. Agitated, angry, annoyed with stupid little inconsequential things. Curled up my inner black dog with my real-life gorgeous sensitive black cat, for what little calming I could get by tuning my heart and breath to the cat’s. Been charting on the bipolar mood scale for 6+ months now and can regularly predict the decline and fall of my moods. Still learning whether resisting or yielding is the best approach to them and/or whether to try distraction to break the cycles. The Ups feel authentically me (something not to be pathologised, as a good friend once said to me), the downs feel like something to be endured. Coming off anti-depressants was actually helpful, to feel more real, even if more volatile. Came off sleeping pills too as ineffective and too many side effects.
My first step is always to acknowledge what sort of mood I’m in, be it a high or a low. That little wedge of knowledge means I then have a small little ledge to sit on before I act (most of the time) and can consider what I’m about to say or do. I’ll admit, it doesn’t always work, but by realising that I’m feeling something, then examining what I’m feeling, allowing myself to feel it, it seems to pass a lot faster.
Lots of NHS cock-ups trying to get CBT.
I can’t imagine cognitive decline, yet in 10 years depression and insomnia have reduced my energy, memory, alertness. HRT has changed my body, muscle, stamina. Everything is exhausting.
Went to a UEA lecture and discussion on whether LGBT is exclusively a “born that way” nature and whether literature can convert someone’s sexual or gender identity. Allowing nurture and choice to be components of identity as well as genes, hormones and wiring, means also realising that books *do* have the power to influence identity and life choices, apart from just helping people to self-realise and identify with and through them. As a result I would argue that books *are* dangerous – and for that reason should be placed in *every* library!
Discussing with Linda Bellos and others as to how we could challenge the gender construct, completely, across not just feminist politics but also biological categorisation that is applied to LGBTI & other people, if not all people. Ended up in Audre Lorde territory recognising that we should not be reduced to a single label and that “we don’t live single-issue lives”.
Go to my first WOW Festival courtesy of someone’s generosity. An inclusive women and others celebration and discussion platform.
In April, I finally make it past the waiting lists to have an appointment at Charing Cross GIC with Dr Penny Lennihan. At this time, I realised that I wanted a simple and sexless labioplasty not a vagina and to be shot off the genitals that barely function physically and not all all mentally. Meantime, she raised my Oestrogen dose as like my teenage male puberty my body was not absorbing or acting on hormones typically. The next step would be a referral to surgeons and to Stuart Lorimer for follow up in December.
By now, I’ve not had sex for a year despite having a gorgeous girlfriend, and it feels right. Esther is understanding and curious whether that will change post-op and/or whether I’m avoiding sex in case it changes my mind about having the (ch)op. Feeling increasingly non-binary and applied for Mx on my bank card.
Financial struggles lead to arrears and repossession threats.
Getting around 3 hours sleep a night. Around once every three months, I get 7 hours. Back on Temazepan occasionally.
Finally, get CBT course of therapy.
Began having couchsurfers to stay – basic requirement being they must be openminded, foreign – speaking at least 2-3 languages, love cats and food.
Began a series of speaking tours around Norfolk and Suffolk with the NSFT medical director on gender, sex and mental health.
Ended up meeting Ruth Hunt and involved in Stonewall’s transgender and intersex engagements and whether they should go LGBTI.
Come Dine With Me accept me and do test filming at my home but next day decide my gender presentation will conflict with another person on the show.
First Paint Out Norwich and volunteering at it for my landlord/artist – subsequently becomes a part-time job. Good for my mental and physical health as I ended up walking 8.5 miles in 2 days and engaged with art, artists and got back into photography. JC describes me as “solid gold, bonkers but a genius”!
Annus horribilis losing many cats to awol, accident and illness – four in a week at one point. In so many ways, they are my therapy and grounding. On the valium now.
Delivered an anti-bullying talk during trans awareness week for a local sixth form and got a thank you email saying “the general consensus has been that you’re awesome, a bit mad and a real inspiration to people to be who they want to be…” – only a bit mad?
December appointment at Charing Cross GIC a relief to be progressing. Extraordinary thanks must go to Esther for supporting me and making my trips to CX feel special, booking us a fabulous posh bijou B&B with resident Bengal cat, and fantastic meal at Fino in London. More than this, the unquestioning companionship and support, whatever my decisions and delays, mean not only do I feel special but I know that I am with someone special.
Go on BBC Radio Norfolk to discuss gender, first of many interviews. Apparently a friend of a friend was driving in her car listening to the show and was surprised to hear me say “dildo” on the wireless before midday! I was struggling to remember the word dilator, the medical tool not sex toy used to maintain a neovaginal cavity in a trans woman post-surgery!
Ended the year with a Quetiapine prescription for Bipolar which I’ve no intention of taking.
Another transgender teenager takes their own life, Leelah Alcorn, her Christian parents refused to accept or allow her transition. 2014 has been the transgender tipping point but also increasingly visible giving up point for many. Will I be another statistic?
The court of social opinion or social media at least is no more relevant than an employment tribunal in determining someone’s gender. It is a reasonable place, though, to decide on the application of the Equality Act (2010) which protects both against sex discrimination and gender transition. Respecting someone has little to do with the biology of sex and presentation of gender.
The Maya Forstater case in which she lost her job (non-renewed contract) was down to her “offensive and exclusionary” language in tweets questioning government proposals to allow people to self-identify as the opposite sex.
“My belief … is that sex is a biological fact, and is immutable. There are two sexes, male and female. Men and boys are male. Women and girls are female. It is impossible to change sex. These were until very recently understood as basic facts of life by almost everyone.” – Maya Forstater
Sex as “Biological…immutable” comes straight out of Trump’s US proposals to lock down sex as genitals by or at birth and only challenged by genetic evidence to the contrary.
Judge Tayler’s ruling kicked off responses from some expected and unexpected sources.
Dress however you please.
Call yourself whatever you like.
Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you.
Live your best life in peace and security.
But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya#ThisIsNotADrill
Sex is indeed real and at first sight mostly binary. Gender is also a reality and mostly a bitch. By that I mean, it binds us, boxes us, oppresses us whether by social constructs and constraints or psychological identity.
Of course trans lives matter. And yes, trans rights are absolutely human rights.
Of course, sex/gender terminology, spaces, constructs, and Trans/TERF* wars won’t be solved by two giants of fiction.
[*TERF=Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist, seen as a slur-term by so-called TERFs who prefer Gender Critical Feminist or just Feminist]
Facts, on the other hand, will always get in the way of ideology. Just as science fiction is free from the constraints of science fact, so, too, sex and gender constructs can be made in our own or society’s image, and no two humans let alone scientists, trans activists, or gender critical feminists, will entirely agree without subtle nuanced differences.
Reproductive sex (based upon binary gametes) is not the same as lived gender nor even outward sex. I have plenty of non-trans friends – some even happy being called cisgender (BTW saying you are not CIS means you are TRANS, lol!) whose outward sex may not reflect their reproductive gametes. One can be born with external female genitalia ie vaginal labia and internal male gametes ie testes. Incredibly rarely, one can also have external male genitalia and gametes and have an internal womb. These exceptions, it is claimed are disorders and dysfunctions that do not undermine sexual dimorphism – at a reproductive level (outside of laboratory help) this is true – it still takes two to tango, an egg and a sperm (after fighting off rivals and swimming faster whilst being healthy and fertile).
Sex, though, can be observed and assigned objectively from a series of outer characteristics though not necessarily accurately (mine took an hour or so to be sure at birth, small furry animals are equally risky to identify soon after birth!). Those outer characteristics may not match the inner when you come to try and have a family, then you may discover you are not just one of two gamete options (which could rarely be undifferentiated eg Mixed Gonadal Dysgenesis), but 22 chromosome possibilities from XX & XY (or even both in the same body) to XO, XXY to XXXXY, or that your body was insensitive or hypersensitive to or had delayed or early responses to sex hormones.
hi, I’m an evolutionary biologist & an #intersex person! sex is not binary in a TON of species, inc. vertebrates, mammals, & us. some ppl like me don’t make eggs or sperm. & intersex =/= disorder, just another biological way of being. sex variation in humans is substantial! https://t.co/q7rTUSbgY3
Sterling, indeed, recognises layers upon layers of sex, saying that:
“It has long been known that there is no single biological measure that unassailably places each and every human into one of two categories — male or female.”
She lists many of the following as a series of often non-binary sex markers:
Chromosome sex (XX, XY and 20 others)
Foetal gonadal sex (testes or ovaries)
Foetal hormonal sex (androgens and estrogens)
Foetal internal reproductive sex (uterus, cervix and fallopian tubes or vas deferens, prostate and epididymis)
Foetal external genital sex (vagina and clitoris or penis and scrotum)
Birth genital sex assignment (1cm rule!)
Birth gender socialisation (pink and blue, dolls and dumpster trucks)
Brain sex (though disputed neuroscience hormones affect brain)
Pubertal secondary sex development (hormones and morphology)
Post-pubertal sex or gender identity
Gender expression and ‘performance’ (Judith Butler)
Add to nature’s diversity, society and nurture, our gendered response to our sexed state and environment and very soon the apparent dimorphic binary breaks down. We may be born one of two sexes with some 1-in-100 having physical intersex variations but very soon in life we are one of several genders. I’m often asked how many sexes or genders there are? I usually reply: “At least two sexes and around seven billion genders”, since we all interpret our gender in a sexed world differently.
Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, head of the laboratory of stem cell biology and developmental genetics at the Francis Crick Institute, who discovered the gene that determines sex in mammals, said: “In the UK, I think most [people] would use ‘sex’ to refer to anatomical appearance and ‘gender’ to ways of behaviour.” To a scientist, he said, anatomy could appear male, female or somewhere in between, but a man who transitioned could be said to change sex. – The Times
Sex and gender should not be policed in a purely binary way. Not all sexes and genders are visible or divisible down toilet door lines and there’s scant evidence of abuse, the opposite if anything.
What’s in a pronoun? Mere politeness and respect that need not change your understanding of science (which may be different from the next person’s). Everyone has the right to privacy, safety, and respect and that means coming up with binary, unisex and non-binary spaces where appropriate that meet everyone’s needs and put nobody at risk. Risk assessments should be done on people that perpetrate not how people pee. A high vis jacket and a mop will get you into the ladies loo without any need to put on a dress.
The whole conversation around sex and gender identity has become more toxic than the blackwater bilge in septic sewage waste. Let’s discuss the science of sex and gender – their construction, oppression and expression – but separate from how we treat human beings with respect and dignity.
Equalities law is clear, even if we’re going to be discussing sex and gender until the end of time!
Three elections in four years have made a mockery of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (2011) and seen a Brexit Referendum (2016) be all but forgotten this general election campaign despite it being the reason for its being called. Tired of Brexit people have focused on the NHS, the Police, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, the trustworthiness of the leaders and other politicians who more often than not are no shows, empty-chaired, or downright refuse to engage with the electorate or debates. Trust and truth are the two casualties of this election and we may never get them back.
Brexit began this all with big lies on the side of a bus, Whoppers even! Now the lies are everywhere and nobody knows what to believe.
Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics
Policing numbers, nurses, the NHS, new hospitals, fast or free nationalised broadband, 2 billion trees, Brexit will be brilliant or Brexit will be a disaster, crime will go up or down – which numbers can be trusted? An unprecedented number of candidates have had to drop out for things they are saying or said in the past about women, Jews, Muslims, their own colleagues and parties – indeed it is unheard of for so many MPs to be switching allegiances, standing as independents or saying to vote against their own leaders or party positions.
I trained in Economics and Statistics at UCL but it may as well have been Politics, Philosophy and Economics for the misuse of statistics has become a political art. Another reason I chose a BSc over a BA was thinking that one was a science and the other a dark art. These days it is pure artifice with Dominic Cummings dropping dead cats to the gullible or worse still, complicit media.
As fast as a politician is caught in the act of lying or showing no care the spin machine drops a distraction – or dead cat news story. Deadcatting aims to divert discussion away from a more politically damaging topic and has been happening almost daily this campaign.
“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” – Winston Churchill
No segue intended here but Adolf Hitler, in Mein Kampf, wrote that:
“in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie…” – Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X (1925)
It is said that Joseph Goebbels was the proponent of telling a lie so big enough and repeating it that people would eventually and inevitably come to believe in it – so long as the State can shield the people from the political and economic consequences of the lie. (Brexit anyone?) Truth, therefore, becomes the greatest enemy of the State and a Ministry of Truth is required to perpetuate the lie and counter the truth.
In fact, Goebbels proposed that Churchill was the big liar and had a Lügenfabrik or “lie factory”.
“The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.” – Joseph Goebbels (1941)
In the USA, JFK also pointed out the potency of repeating lies till they become ingrained as myth masquerading as truth.
“No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as the truth.” – John F. Kennedy
The slow news outlet Tortoise has called them “big little lies” this General Election 2019 campaign.
“of 95 claims that were fact-checked during the election campaign, 77 turned out to be untrue.” – Tortoise
Tell the Truth
“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” – George Orwell
“Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” – George Orwell
Recent analysis has found that 88% of online ads posted recently by the Conservatives contained content that had already been deemed misleading or false by a third party factchecker, Full Fact. That number for the opposition? 0%.
“And at Christmas you tell the truth” was the Love Actually prompt card that Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson couldn’t in any sincerity include in their spin on the Richard Curtis film Love Actually (2003), because, you know, lies…not only that but this dead cat is a copy cat of Labour MP Dr Rosena Allin-Khan’s parody video from 3 weeks ago.
If Boris Johnson wins the #GE2019 it will be on an unprecedented foundation of lies and “truth avoidance”. The Brexit Referendum was founded on untruths and whoppers on the side of a bus. So too this election. Speak truth to power and take a stand #NotMyGovernment!
I’ve written about the Transgender Day of Visibility (#TDOV) – meant to be a positive and the more negative memorialised Transgender Day of Remembrance (#TDOR) most years. Since 2014’s “transgender tipping point” and 2015’s year of transgender visibility, we now seem to be getting too much visibility and attention and not necessarily of a good kind. For with the visibility has come the vitriolic verbal violence that says we should go back into the closet and certainly not share one with cisgender people that match our gender identity. By that I mean trans women should not be seen in the same spaces or private areas (toilets, changing rooms, gyms, pools etc) as “real” “biological” women. Of course, the flipside is rarely addressed, i.e., whether trans men should be allowed in male gyms or loos and which instead silently suggests they should know their place and continue to use women’s facilities with their beards, biceps and deep voices.
I’m not going into the ‘debates’ – I do that enough already with so-called ‘TERFs’ in person, privately, and online. I do, however, try to listen to concerns and allay them when overwhelmingly they are misplaced. That is not to say that the fears don’t feel real or come from personal but perhaps projected experience. The problem of men’s violence against women and girls (VAWG) should not be erased in the fight for trans equality and respect. Equally, men’s VAWG should not be projected onto all or any trans people as some kind of 1980s homosexual moral panic 2.0.
Rather, I want to talk about allies and mutual respect. Firstly, the latter. For many years I co-ran with some University feminist academics and local LGBT thinkers a Gender and Sexuality discussion group. There was never any trans exclusion but what did come up, very occasionally, was the idea that some trans people still had traces of male privilege and/or needed to go on a Feminism 101 induction course., and that we hadn’t experienced female oppression. It was never denied that we hadn’t experienced our own oppression and bullying for not conforming to gender construct norms. So our battle against gender oppression overlapped but was not the same. Being able to separate the personal from the analytical enabled me to discuss this without ever getting offended, though the first time I was called privileged it did hurt as it never felt that way, and I regard most privilege as relative, indeed being cisgendered is to have a presumed privilege of never having doubted one’s gender or suffered from gender dysphoria and its mental health associations.
Passing Privilege is something that many trans people long for but is not exclusively a trans issue. At recent gender critical discussions, I was somewhat amused to discover that trans people were accessing gender-aligned toilets with ease but some cisgender women were being questioned by other women for using toilets that didn’t seem to match their non-femme presentations. Just going to show that can’t always spot a trans person at 100 paces! I’ve never been questioned in a toilet except the men’s!
As to mutual respect, though, I’ve always felt that being accepted as female (actually I identify as non-binary but we don’t have our own changing rooms yet!) does not mean asserting that as a right but rather a privilege. The Equality Act (2010) and Gender Recognition Act (2004) may say that we should be treated equally and with respect but respect is also earned and the privilege of sharing same-sex spaces as ‘re-gendered’ individuals should be treated with gratefulness and grace not some sense of entitlement. If society follows the law then it does so not by waving GRCs or EA rules in people’s faces but by a growing sense of not just tolerance and acceptance but welcoming inclusion. An inclusion that, to me at least, comes from respecting the people whose space you are entering and sharing. Yes, we can exercise our rights but some rights are also won by mutual respect, not by a muscular assertion of them. I’ve only ever gone into women’s spaces that I felt welcome in, irrespective of what the law says. Most times I was invited, other times I enter cautiously and tread gently to see how I would be received.
At recent gender and trans discussions and events, I have actually found the issue was less that men or trans were vehemently asserting their views but instead two different groups of feminists were arguing over whether it was sisters or cisters, whether biology should be destiny or diversity, and over what form inclusion and intersectionality should take.
Now, more than ever, is the time not for Trans Visibility but for Allies Visibility and for that I thank them because it is indeed encouraging how many there are. They are the many, the majority, social attitudes have changed. Whether they are ‘cishet’ supporters or the #LwithTheT, we need to be allies not enemies, our rights were won by standing together be they the black trans women and queens standing with – or indeed starting, the early gay riots and Prides, or the LGBT movement standing with the miners or on other shared political platforms.
The ‘TERF’ kickback, the no LGBT education in faith schools, the occasional cases of trans violence upon cis (and more frequent vice versa cases) – these are all thankfully minority pockets of non-acceptance or abuse. We do live in better times and we should celebrate progress and the far more intersectional and diverse society we live in and how most of us get on and respect each other. I’m hoping the so-called ‘War upon Women/Trans’ (delete as appropriate depending which side you are on) is a passing hiccough in the march for LGBTQ acceptance and inclusion and treating each other as humans not labels or threats. History is littered with exclusion but the future is surely about inclusion.