Monthly Archives: January 2019

Sexual violence and trans people – what you need to know.

While anti-trans activists are busy painting trans people, specifically trans women, as sexual predators by cherry picking the examples of criminals who decide to transition to get an easy ride, the message that does not get across is that trans people are more likely, twice as likely as cis women to be victims of sexual violence. This has significant safeguarding concerns, especially for young or vulnerable trans people. Although there is no particular profile of offenders, predators often pick their victims for their vulnerability, their ease of access, chance that their victim would be speak out, and lack of parental or lack of other support around the victim. As such, trans people, lacking systemic support from police, friends, family and victim support services are particularly at risk.

The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 47% of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime. Recently we released a series of tweets aimed at consciousness raising for trans people, for two reasons. Firstly, it’s important for trans people to know that they are not alone. Sexual violence is something that isn’t often talked about, especially on social media, but it’s can be just as healing to know that you are not alone, and just as empowering for young trans people, and people of any age who have suffered sexual abuse at any time in their life.

I’m going to sew the tweets together as an archive for you to read. They were made over a day, with some advice at the end for anyone needing to work through serious traumas.

Today’s numbered tweets will be about sexual violence, as it affects roughly 1/2 of trans people.

Definition: “Sexual violence is the general term we use to describe any kind of unwanted sexual act or activity, including rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, and many others.”

Often trans people and women are socialised not to talk about acts of sexual violence.

They are silenced for many reasons including:

  • The belief that it wasn’t bad enough
  • No penetration was involved.
  • The perpetrator was female
  • It could affect their transition
  • It wasn’t violent.
  • They are socialised to think they don’t matter
  • If they try to talk, they are mocked or not taken seriously
  • They believe it was their fault
  • They are afraid of the repercussions
  • They were manipulated
  • They are afraid of approaching women’s services because of transphobia
  • There is only one trans survivors helpline in the UK, open for 2 hours a day
  • It was a long time ago
  • The perp was a family friend / relative
  • They don’t understand the definition of sexual violence
  • They believe sexual violence only affects cis women
  • They are ashamed of what happened and the way they dealt with it
  • They fear authorities and would rather just cope.
  • They were often bullied at school & view this as “worse”
  • The intersecting shame of being trans and a survivor
  • Coping with transness, and MH problems is too much
  • Finding a therapist they can trust is difficult.
  • They were often bullied at school & view this as “worse”
  • The intersecting shame of being trans and a survivor
  • Coping with transness, and MH problems is too much
  • Finding a therapist they can trust is difficult.

Like trans women, non-binary people & trans men are survivors too. Often, they are silenced because of similar reasons. Trans survivors need to be understood in a way that both affirms their identity, and how their abuse affected them as a non-binary/trans person. Finding support services which cater to this need is very difficult for trans survivors. Often they cannot explain how the sexual violence affected them because the services are more set up for cis / binary people. To get help, often you need to present as cis.

But by presenting as cis, part of your experience as a trans survivor is lost and, worse, you cannot open up to the actual trauma. You heal parts of the trauma which is identical to cis people, where other parts are largely untouched. Furthermore, LGB trans people also have the same intersections and barriers to healing as their cis counterparts. Quite often, services are set up to understand cis-sexual heterosexuals, so for me, being lesbian and trans are intersections which prevent healing.

The irony is that healing from sv can be complex and actually involves a lot of talking. You can never talk “too much” about things which affected you. No-one heals in a day or after a few sessions, unless it’s quite minor. Often people are so afraid to talk. The silencing is so entrenched that often survivors can spend many sessions just trying to get the words out. But when they do, they need to be heard, and understood and have the time to concentrate on healing rather than shutting it out to correct their listener. Trans people sometimes need to have time to explore in safety how they felt, how it related to their transness, and how and why it happened:

What were the power dynamics?

How did it affect them?

How did affect their relationships with others and with themselves?

Sexual violence can change lots of things about our relationships with others and with ourselves. But surviving abuse does not make you trans, it does not make you a lesbian, or gay. It’s ok to question, and not to be sure about things. But it is NEVER the role of a listener to deny someone’s sexual or gender identity when talking with survivors. It is your role to walk with them, to help see things from all sides, and to empower – never to project your own values and beliefs.

Another very sensitive area with trans survivors is that by its very nature, sexual violence affects our sexual anatomy. We are sensitive not only because of the abuse, but because we are trans, and as such, any significant SV should be treated as complex trauma.

One of the travesties of surviving sexual violence is that victims are often haunted by their experiences, some are very sensitive and worry that they will become the abuser. Anti-trans dialogue about trans women being rapists and abusers is, therefore, massively damaging. Furthermore, others talking about transitioning for nefarious reasons – to be a predator, is associated with self harm and suicide in victims because of such worries that they have become what they abhor. For others, who are victims of non-violence sexual abuse through coercion and grooming, there may be issues around reconstructive surgery. These are not addressed through the GIC through fear of withdrawal of care and permission for surgery.

Something which is common among all genders about sexual violence, especially historical SV, or CSA, is a disrupted relationship with our sexual self. Some people struggle so much with sexual feelings that they prefer to harm, rather than give way to them. It is this issue which causes confusion for therapists – so the complex issues around identity & abuse, takes dedication and time; therapists need to be on point for both affirmative therapy and working with survivors. Often things can be unclear for people, and that’s ok. Often the line between what is/was or wasn’t abuse is also a grey one. Not all who wander are lost – and it is totally OK to explore whatever issue – around transness or sexuality and to have those difficult conversations. Sometimes there are no easy answers. This is why supporting gender *variety* and differing expressions of gender, and agency of people to express themselves, or to experiment with gender is important for survivors of historic SV.

Section 2 – help and advice when dealing with traumatic events.

In these final tweets for the day about sexual violence, I’ll talk briefly about healing from it, what to expect and look out for in therapy, and linking in the resources that trans people already have in healing from situations where they feel trapped, and coerced – i.e. GD.

The first thing you need to do is be careful with yourself. Set boundaries that you expect from your therapist, and for yourself. Psychoeducation is both informative and helpful, and you may need to know how to stabilise, and manage flashbacks or traumatic memories when/if they happen. It’s not simply a case of going to a therapist and being fixed. Your relationship with your therapist is important, and so is your relationship with yourself. A good therapist will share their tools, knowledge and experience to help “re-program” faulty thinking. It’s ok to say no, and state any preferences for the gender of your therapist. This is really important, because you will need to trust your therapist completely.

Abuse happens when there is an imbalance of power and it is possible that you might become confused in therapy. A good therapist will notice when / if you become dissociated or react in ways which reflect survival instincts. These are: * Fight * Flight * Freeze * Faun. Recognising when you are triggered is part of the journey in surviving. Make crisis plans in advance to manage and resolve issues. Crisis planning or care planning instructs both you and those around you of the actions people need to take to make sure that you are safe. Working through trauma is hard work, and can easily become overwhelming. It’s common for things to become overwhelming very quickly. Just like transition, you need to be very patient. Your healing will hardly be noticeable at first, and it might feel like it’s impossible/too difficult/will go on forever. The more you learn / read the better. Books are invaluable, but again, be gentle with yourself. It’s ok just to buy a book and then hide it in the house (personal experience!). However, develop an enquiring attitude with yourself, and be mindful about what you need and at what time.

People often ask – can I /will I get better? Yes and no. For single trauma and experiences, EMDR can be very effective. However, just as being trans is a lifelong thing, abuse can have devastating consequences resulting in long term disability. Don’t be put off though. Even with experiences that had effects throughout a prolonged period in your life, you can’t just make that go away, but you can learn to manage yourself and those effects to recover more quickly and more effectively. Recovery is not linear!

Become inquisitive about your experiences. Sometimes it helps to think about hiccups as learning experiences, or your mind telling you that you are ready to process something. What happened? How did that happen? What can I do in future? How does this affect my crisis plan?

Take breaks from working on yourself. Do something different if you get trapped in thought, make a daily maintenance plan of things you must do to feel good about yourself. This can be as simple or complex as you need. Everyone has different comforts. If you’re housebound, make a safe space in your home. Make it special, keep it lovely! It’s ok to put yourself first when you are working through trauma. Experiment with different things and work out what feels right and comforting for you (just like transition!).

Sometimes simple repetitive tasks can be great – gaming, knitting, craft, DIY – there are many different things that you can use as tools for wellbeing. Working through trauma does not mean diving into doom and getting lost! Instead think of it as touch and go, practicing grounding, comforting, distraction, as you go. It is this routine which will help you cope with those random triggers which can be really confusing and disorientating. Maintain a good focus on the good things you have in life and practice gratitude for them. Appreciate the present, the good things and people who are in your here and now. Noticing the good things helps to train your mind to feel happy, safe and calm.

I’d like to thank my partner for her love and support, other survivors from whom I learned so much and who inspired me to write this, and my cute and adorable therapy dog, whose love keeps me sane. I’d also like to thank Survivors Network, Brighton, for helping me out when I needed a place to talk.

Resources / help: …

Debbie Hayton

All you need to know about anti-trans activist Debbie Hayton.

Debbie Hayton
Debbie Hayton

It isn’t often that I’m in the position of making analysis of people, however, it is clear that some action is required to expose an anti-trans activist whose representation has been magnified in the media, and who has, apparently been appointed as part of the LGBT+ committee on both the TUC, and in their teaching union. They have also written for or have mention in anti-trans articles Medium, The Times, The Guardian, their own blog, The Economist, numerous tweets, The Morning Star, Talk Radio and Quilette, and have featured on the BBC as a voice of a trans person – and in particular trans women and transsexual women.

Debbie Hayton’s resume.

Debbie Hayton didn’t transition that long ago, I’m guessing, from the articles I have read, that it was in about 2012/2013, and they went on to have lower surgery some 4 years later. Although this is of little relevance to Debbie’s activism per say, it’s worth a cursory mention of when she popped up as “trans” for historical reasons.

Interestingly, we also started supporting transitioning people on Facebook in 2012 – with a strong emphasis on mental health, wellbeing and positivity. Our focus is always our members, and we have learned a lot from them, and are very grateful for their contributions and unending support.

Debbie Hayton and their identity

So, let me just start off by analysing what Debbie says about themselves and how this compares to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual definition at the time. Debbie would have needed to convince clinicians, based on the diagnostic criteria in order to get access to hormones and therapy at the time.

This page gives you everything you need to know about the DSM4’s criteria for diagnosis, and therefore access to hormones and surgery for trans people. I’ll just quote the relevant part here – emphasis is my own:

“There must be evidence of a strong and persistent cross-gender identification, which is the desire to be, or the insistence that one is of the other sex (Criteria A). This cross-gender identification must not merely be a desire for any perceived cultural advantages of being the other sex. there must also be evidence of persistent discomfort about one’s assigned sex or a sense of inappropriateness in the gender role of that sex (Criteria B).”

Criteria B: This cross-gender identification must not merely be a desire for any perceived cultural advantages of being the other sex.  “the other set of gender norms seemed more palatable”.

Clearly, also Debbie has no profound discomfort over their assigned sex.
Criteria B:
Cross-gender identification must not merely be a desire for any perceived cultural advantages of being the other sex. 

I’m male, I’m still male, but I find it more comfortable [presenting as a woman] – Debbie Hayton

Quite ironic, yes Debbie, we do need to be honest about who we are. In the United Kingdom, trans people are often classified under the ICD – international classification of diseases, rather than the DSM, although it is recognised that the two often influence each other. The ICD classification is much more simplistic, however, it also serves a purpose. Here are the ICD classifications from the period 2012-2016:

Transsexualism (ICD-10) 2010

“A desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by a sense of discomfort with, or inappropriateness of, one’s anatomic sex, and a wish to have surgery and hormonal treatment to make one’s body as congruent as possible with one’s preferred sex.

“I don’t identify as a woman, I’m not even sure what it means to identify as a woman” – Debbie Hayton.

F64.0 Transsexualism (ICD-10) 2014

“A desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by a sense of discomfort with, or inappropriateness of, one’s anatomic sex, and a wish to have surgery and hormonal treatment to make one’s body as congruent as possible with one’s preferred sex.”

Transsexualism (ICD-10) 2015

A desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by a sense of discomfort with, or inappropriateness of, one’s anatomic sex, and a wish to have surgery and hormonal treatment to make one’s body as congruent as possible with one’s preferred sex

Now, forgive me if I’ve missed something here, but repeatedly posting on your blog, on huff post, on talk radio, that you don’t identify as a woman, rationalising and stating how you are a man, and that you’re not sure what it means to identify a a woman pretty much flies in the face of both the ICD classification of transsexualism, and DSM-4 criteria of the erstwhile “Gender Identity Disorder” presently called “Gender Dysphoria”.

Having talked with innumerable trans people, one of the commonest reasons for delaying surgical treatment for people is when the psychiatrists aren’t convinced that this is necessarily the right course of action for this person, and Debbie admits in her writing that this was duly delayed for 4 years. This “thinking time”, however, wasn’t enough, it seems. When Debbie wrote “we need to be honest about who we are”, Debbie was unaware of the irony of this!

We have exclusive evidence of correspondence from Debbie, which, sadly, details their regret about having transitioned. From our experience, people who regret, often do so after surgery, when the full meaning of never being able to live as their assignation at birth comes home. I’m sorry that Debbie isn’t happy with their decisions, however, this also adds evidence that Debbie was not, after all, as transsexual as they thought they were.

When you ask for / need help from psychiatric services, it is very unhelpful if you aren’t entirely honest with the people who are trying to help you.

If I were to lie to my psychiatrist about auditory or visual hallucinations, there is a slight chance that I may be given anti-psychotics, which may well not be of benefit to me. In the same way Debbie, who is quite willing to say that they are male, and has no idea what it feels like to be a woman, might be regretful of the decision they made to permanently change their body, and be “forever dependent on artificial hormones”.

I am not saying that Debbie is not trans, or doesn’t have some experience of the feeling of being trans, however, as evidenced – Debbie does not meet the criteria for diagnosis on psychiatric terms of being a transsexual woman, or a trans woman judging by the things Debbie says about themselves.

Identity, self-ID, and the medicopathologisation of trans identity.

It is always at the back of my mind that many non-binary and indeed binary trans people might feel affronted by my use of texts which pathologise trans people, and how this has historically excluded non-binary people. I am very aware of this and would like to make it clear that this is not my intent in doing so. My point is that while simultaneously claiming to be “a true transsexual”, and therefore “acceptable” to cis people, Debbie has outed themselves as not actually meeting those criteria, and at present, nothing more. Readers will be aware that at Transiness, we support both self-ID and embrace a model of gender and sex which reflects current scientific thinking. That is: both gender and sex are highly variable, and we support anyone in their right to bodily autonomy, and that everyone deserves to have agency over their body and access to therapy and counselling services which may be of help to them. Both binary and non-binary people deserve respect, and access to services to allay bodily dysphoria should they require medical intervention to live a happy and authentic life.

Being trans isn’t a pathology in itself, self awareness of one’s transgender identity may or may not bring with it a strong need to be recognised in society as one’s actual identity, and people’s solutions to their situation are as varied as trans people themselves. This is where access to affirmative therapy helps people to feel more comfortable with themselves, their role in society, and weigh up the risks and benefits from social and physical transition. Therapy also helps us to explore what kind of trans person we are, and some people find it helpful to apply a label to that. Those labels are important, because it is through them that we are understood and judged by others. Being understood and respected forms part of people’s wellbeing.

There is no “cookie-cutter” trans person. It only becomes pathological, only needing treatment when it interferes with a persons social and/or psychological wellbeing. So self-ID is not only important for people who change their bodies with hormones and surgery, but also important for those who need recognition for who they are without having to resort to life changing, permanent and risky surgery, or having to take hormones. We need to appreciate that being trans isn’t a binary, and that there is variance in gender and identity and solutions to dysphoria are all very personal and unique.

So lets take a look at Debbie’s position on self-ID. Debbie wrote or was mentioned in articles in Medium, The Times, The Guardian, their own blog, The Economist, numerous tweets, The Morning Star, Talk Radio and Quilette, about self-ID.

This is an excerpt from Debbie’s argument which was published in the Times, arguing against the right of trans people to legally self identify, and for a medicalisation and a bureaucratic process to self identity:

Debbie Hayton on self identification

Now we’ve already established that, in Debbie’s own words, they don’t identify as a woman. Debbie’s identity does not meet DSM or ICD classifications of transsexualism as they continue to define themselves as being male.

It’s interesting that Debbie writes “throw my lot in with them” – is this a reference to trans surgery and their regret? They say they identify with women – rather than making any reference to who they actually are. Identity isn’t a case of being empathic or supportive of people, you can be empathic and supportive of anyone, human or not. Being trans is a recognition of who you are and how you fit in the world, how you perceive yourself and how you are treated socially is the cornerstone of dysphoria and why people change their pronouns, or their bodies. This is why trans people are who they say they are – it is not to be deceptive, or to make out that any of us are cisgender, it is both to resolve this conflict and help others to understand who we are and how we fit in a very gendered world. Binary trans people are valid, non-binary people are valid. Bodily autonomy is important for everyone, cis or trans. The real problem happens when others try to police our bodies and our identities.

Speak for yourself, Debbie. Trans women are women.

Elevating cisgender people’s concerns over those of trans people is cis-supremacy. Domination and control of trans people’s identity is cis-supremacy.

Supremacism is an ideology which holds that a particular class of people is superior to others, and that it should dominate, control, and subjugate others, or is entitled to do so. The supposed superior class of people can be an age, race, species, ethnicity, religion, gender or sex, sexuality, language, social class, ideology, nation, or culture, or any other part of a population.

Debbie Hayton in the Economist

Here, Hayton writes to the spectator, deligitimising trans people’s identity in favour of what they call the objectivity of dividing people not by how they identify, but by their reproductive capability. Bio-essentialism is historically the philosophy that trans exclusive radical feminists have used in order to maintain their supremacy over trans women.

Here, Hayton attempts to validate their own position, while punching down on non-binary people. This is another form of cis-supremacism – that no trans person deserves respect or is valid unless it takes the form of the dominant, cis-centric group. When we are looking at equality: and to do, say and publish things which are progressive and inclusive, this is not the way forward.

In identifying “with women”, Hayton is found to be consistently cis-supremacist in their writing – without providing nuance or balance. The key as a trans advocate, and to act with humanity and compassion, is not to explore how to exclude trans people from society, not to support a status quo which sees trans people’s identity as “just feelings” which can be ignored with impunity, but how to include trans people in society – in sports, in welfare provision, within healthcare.

Hayton declares their cis-supremacist ideas and punches down on non-binary people, and those who do not undergo medical transition.

And toward the end of the article, Hayton calls trans women and people “dishonest”. They use their own experience to talk for themselves, yet use “we” in order to signify “all trans people”.

Policing and controlling trans people is not progressive, just because Debbie Hayton does not identify as a woman, does not mean that trans women, and transsexual women, do not exist.

Debbie Hayton’s anti-trans activism, affiliation with transmisogynistic people, and hate groups.

Debbie Hayton’s association with anti-trans groups, people, and campaigns is well documented. Anyone who has been part of twitter for the last few years is very aware of what has been said, and by whom over the years. One of these campaigns, arguing for the expulsion and marginalisation of trans people through biological essentialism and cis-supremacy resulted in a billboard quoting a mantra held by the group with the dictionary definition of a woman. The argument is that by including trans women in society, it re-defines what it means to be a woman as a class, and cis-women aren’t happy with it.

Debbie in part of the campaign against trans women’s inclusion in society as women.

Here is Debbie Hayton with anti-trans campaigner “Hope Lye” (pronounced H-o-p-e L-i-e) who is well known to the trans community, and has been expelled from every trans support community in the UK, and well known on twitter for their anti-trans remarks. They describe themselves as a “gender non-conforming man”.

Debbie Hayton (center) and Hope Lye (right).
Debbie Hayton’s affiliation with anti-trans group “Woman’s Place UK” whose purpose is to maintain supremacy over and control of trans women.
Debbie Hayton’s dialogue published and supported by an anti-trans site. “Peak trans” is anti-trans dialogue for: this is when I became so anti-trans I campaigned against trans people’s rights and freedom.

Debbie Hayton has also written to the Express, and the Spectator campaigning against trans children’s services:

Debbie Hayton, doctor Debbie Hayton, lobbying Scottish Parliament to maintain a process which supports a biomedical model of segregation, marginalising non-binary people and forcing people to out themselves as trans:

Debbie’s support of well known transphobe, Julie Bindel, who recently wrote an article demonising and misgendering Rachel McKinnon, a trans woman and athlete.

Conclusion and closing remarks

Anyone claiming to be on the side of trans people, or acting on their behalf must be accountable both for their actions and affiliations. As an umbrella term “trans” includes a huge variety of people and situations. Care should always be taken by activists, by therapists, by anyone claiming ownership or belonging to such a marginalised group should not to put themselves and their own self interest above those who they purport to represent.

The acid test for those spokespeople includes:

  • Do they stand up to scrutiny, are they living by the same standards?
  • Do they listen to and respond to their community, are they part of and connected to the community – or are they part of a fringe group?
  • Do they uphold cis-supremacy, governance and authority over trans people or policing of trans people?
  • Are they using their platform to elevate the voices and experiences of those less fortunate than themselves, do they represent them?
  • Are they affiliated with any anti-trans groups, people or organisations?
  • Do they focus on how to include trans people in society, rather than exclude them for any reason?

Further reading:

Is Debbie Hayton a true transsexual or feminine man?