The reality of ignorant judgment

Why thank you fate, or nemesis – or whatever malign deity exists to make sure we’re not getting too far above our proper station. Having spent today writing thoughtfully on consent and deception,I was just asking for it, wasn’t I? (Hold that thought: its relevant).

Yep. Bloody well begging to be taken down a peg or two – and you delivered, didn’t you?

Today was a gentle day. The morning was spent, as above, writing up a piece for the New Statesman on the nature of consent when it comes to (sexual) intimacy and the relevance of “trans deception” to that equation. Having read the latest pompous wofflings of three utterly ignorant middle-aged blokes, aka judges, on the matter, events this evening sort of underline just how little they know about the issue at hand. But we’ll get to that in a mo.

Cougarish ladies

This evening, I was out and about with Fiona, a woman who probably comes closest of all to deserving the accolade of BFF. She has been there for me several times over – and hopefully, the favour has been returned. At any rate, I do a good deal of listening, and make sympathetic noises in most of the right places.

I wouldn’t claim cougar status for either of us…but when we DO decide to hit the town, “cougar-ish” would not be inappropriate. So, tonight, we started in Peterborough, catting it up with our observations on innocent passers-by – and rating the local male talent (which mostly scored very badly indeed).

Then on to a venue some way outside Peterborough where we settled down with coffee and chocolate to put the world to rights. Well, that was the plan, until half a dozen beery Yorkshire lads descended on our table, initially to share the space and then, as one (Mr Red shirt) got chatting to us, for a little light flirting.

Flirty man

Was it going anywhere? Probably not. He was nice enough (and defo showing rather more interest in Fiona than me): he scored several brownie points for deducting a decade or so from both our ages when guesstimating. And he had got so far as doing some not so subtle stuff with our hands and legs (don’t ask!) when proceedings came to an abrupt close.

The lads decided twas time to move on: and almost simultaneously, I took a call from scout camp, where my son had been spending the weekend, to say he was a bit under the weather and could I come and collect. Che sara and all that!

Bigot in blue

Oh. And then there was Mr Blue shirt. He’d given me an odd sort of look when they first sat down: I could tell he was looking at me quizzically. As we stood to go, he said, quite rudely: “You’re not right, you are”. (His grammar was about equal to his manners).

I went to pick up my scarf. More abuse. “That’s not your’s, it’s not. You’re a bloke!” I said nothing. Fiona and I left: I took care to watch my back, have my car keys handy so I could get quickly into my car.

Fiona expressed sadness that I should have to put up with such stuff. I did the usual: explained I was used to it. It didn’t affect me. And mostly, that’s true. One gets used to it: learns to manage such situations.

Ignorant judges

But here’s the thing – the real thing that those unlearned friends who so recently have sat in judgment of the trans dilemma. The real issue was not Blue shirt, but Red.

To understand what – and why – you need to understand transition. At first, you remain “sir” to all but the most politically correct of public servants. Then, gradually, there is a shift:”Ma’am” slips into conversation more and more often. At first, you don’t believe it, are sure they’re just being nice.

But it keeps on happening and happening until you realise what you never, yourself, believed possible has happened: that as you walk blithely through the world what people see,mostly, is the woman that you are and always were. Wow! Of course, it happens faster, more completely for some than others. Still, it happens and you react how? Do you reject each and every “Ma’am” with a legally pedantic “sorry, that isn’t quite correct”?

Or do you, as most women would, simply smile and carry on.

The latter, I think.

The trans dilemma

But here’s the rub. Fiona and I weren’t out “on the pull”. We didn’t invite those guys to our table, didn’t initiate the conversation. But we enjoyed it at the time, and if we hadn’t gone our separate ways when we had, who knows what might have happened.

I very much doubt Red shirt was interested in me. But if he had been? I “deceived” him from the outset, since he was clearly very happily flirting with two women. Should I have told him when he sat down next to us? “Excuse me sir, but before you say a word, I have something to tell you”.

Should I have waited til he put a hand on my knee? Or brushed his fingers thru my hair. Or best to hang on til after the full-on fuck…somewhere between the post-coital ciggy and breakfast?

The difficulty hinges on two separate issues. First, were I to assume that any man who chatted to me nicely wished to shag me, that would be bloody presumptuous…and providing a full and frank disclosure of genital history on that basis would be just tmi.

Violence vs. celibacy

But the longer the conversation goes on, the more the guy has invested in me – both time and ego – the more violent I fear his reaction may be should he then decide to turn round and hit me.

Blue shirt I can deal with: for he is no more than everyday bigoted idiot.

Red shirt and all his ilk are an ever more frequent issue, since I have no idea what the approved script should be in such circs – and I bet Appeal Court judges haven’t the faintest either.

Not, however, that that has in any way impeded them in handing down a judgment that makes it that much more likely that if and when such situations happen again in future, they have just handed every aggrieved male in the land an explicit license to hit me in self-defence.

Thank you so much, fate, nemesis – and British “justice”. Perhaps I should just resign myself to a life of celibacy: or was that what you intended all along?


About janefae

On my way from here to there
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6 Responses to The reality of ignorant judgment

  1. Karen says:

    We need more articles like this. It’s a very real issue that a lot of trans folk face, but unfortunately is outside of the ‘bubble’ so doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves (I’ve seen several such pieces ignored regarding high-profile court cases). Thanks for writing an extremely lucid and persuasive piece.

  2. Suusi M-B says:

    The judges were probably thinking back t the days when they were getting buggered senseless by the teachers and the prefects at Eaton or Charterhouse. Experiences like that do rather colour opinions in later life.

  3. Hazumu says:

    Celibacy will not save a transwoman from a guy aware of her history and intent on delivering a whuppin’.

  4. Anon says:

    I have a mild STD. It’s not something that would ruin someone’s life, but I consider it important that my sexual partners know about it, even if it is a casual encounter that includes the use of condoms by default. It is not a case of (not) endangering them, it’s a case of being authentic, even at the price of potential rejection & humiliation (it happens *shrug*).

    I don’t disclose this information when someone sits down next to me, nor when they put their hand on my thigh, nor when we’re dancing together or even snogging in the pub prior to deciding to go home together. But at some point before full consent is granted on both sides, I find a time to make my disclosure.

    Scott Hill had *four years* in which to find the right time, and very little reason to believe that male violence would result (given that M is a girl). The judges that have come in for so much opprobrium have *reduced* the custodial sentence handed down to Justine McNally, and freed her, basically effective immediately. I realise that the legalities behind this case are unpleasant, but I truly don’t understand why it’s this appeal, and not, for example, the original sentence, that has so angered the community.

    • janefae says:

      We-ell, i can’t speak for the trans community in any particular sense, but you have a p;oint.

      I’m a journalist…so i tend to hook opinion pieces on to the back of whatever makes a sensible hook for it. I have been following this issue, writing about it and also talking to the CPS about it ever since the first case in the recent sequence, of Gemma Barker, back in 2011/12. I was aware of the danger then…and all i see right now is a theoretical danger gradually crystallising into reality.

      Also, i’d say my own views on this matter are not entirely congruent with the rest of the trans community. I am NOT sure that a right to non-disclosure is the way to go. I think we now need a full and open debate on what should be disclosed by whom, to whom, period.

      So, whatever the upshot, at least the trans community is on an equal footing.

      And you are reading my post backward…what i am trying to do is set out a very real dilemma i face more and more…and which i faced last night…which was about when to tell and how much to tell.

      I accept that was not the case in respect of JM: my point is that on top of my initial dilemma is now loaded the view of the courts in respect of what my legal obligations are: in essence, i am aware, always, that a night out, for me, risks violence at the end of it…but the recent legal stuff possibly opens the way to a legally backed kicking as well. Ugh!


    • rachbowyer says:

      “I truly don’t understand why it’s this appeal, and not, for example, the original sentence, that has so angered the community”

      I suspect a mixture of lack of empathy (she was portrayed as a lesbian in the media) and self-interest.

      Justine was convicted after pleading guilty at the Crown Court so this had no bearing on whether deception as to gender is a crime. The sentence, also at the Crown Court, although incorrect and hence unjust, did not set a precedent.

      One of the grounds of the appeal was that Justine had basically pleaded guilty to a non-existent offence. This was dismissed by the Court of Appeal creating a binding legal precedent that deception as to gender can be an offence.

      This how the case now looks like in the law books
      “Consent to sexual penetration could be vitiated by a deception by the defendant as to gender because vitiating deceptions were not limited to deceptions relating to features of the offence.”

      To get to this point the judges had to rely on homophobia (they explained it was common sense that sex between two women was different than sex between a man and a women even if the same physical act was involved.)

      The outcome is it now possible for instance that a transgendered woman who has completely transitioned medically and legally and who then kisses a guy in bar without disclosing her history may have committed a criminal offence (with a maximum sentence of 10 years).

      This is worrying. It is worrying for transgendered people, butch lesbians and anyone else whose gender presentation does not match stereotypical norms.

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