Sometimes I find myself wishing I was normal. Usually when some hilariously unpredictable accident has befallen me... I would even go so far as wishing that my house could be normal, given that it seems to be capable of going wrong in ways that defeat even the professionals when it comes to putting them right. Sometimes I wish my brain was a bit more normal, with a few less of the defects that it carries which make it difficult to live day-to-day... But 'normal' has nothing to do with it, in reality. All I'm feeling is that other people don't show me those bits where they're frustrated by inexplicably complicated and irritating things like fixing a boiler. I think becoming a teacher was quite a significant step in changing how I viewed the world - as a teenager, I think probably I thought my world was richer and more complex than that of others because I was clever - allowing me an insight into how it is to be other people, although the ones in question are generally quite young.
Trying to explain to kids who think of themselves as normal how other people are different to them, why that matters, and how that should make the (supposedly) normal kids behave is a serious challenge. Much like the self-proclaimed no-nonsense anti-woke GB News, kids set themselves up as arbitrators of normality (and, perhaps, acceptability) and use their own standards to judge others. These kids see the world only through their own eyes, and then come from that viewpoint to question who others are. It's an insight into the world at large to see kids say things that they can only possibly have heard from parents or peers, because kids don't develop prejudices on their own. In fact, little kids seem to be the most accepting and kind people when it comes to difference, and as far as I can tell it takes effort to make people notice and care about how others are different. Sexuality and gender identity seem to be massive triggers to people of a certain ilk, those who like to say how the world should be, who cannot or will not grasp that others really are different and it isn't just a wind-up.
It's incredibly tough to offer anything useful or insightful that either hasn't already been said by someone cleverer and more invested than me when it comes to the current debate about whether Maya Forstater was in the right or not. But it is possible to say with some clarity that both feminism and trans rights seem to be losing out as a result: as far as I can tell, the forces of conservatism (and Conservatism) have muscled in on the story, and positioned themselves on the side of 'common sense', which seems to basically say that trans women are sufficiently deviant to not deserve human rights. The left - bollocksed by the fact that it spiritually agrees with both feminism and trans rights - is fucked beyond belief, because it can't pick a side without dropping the other. It's worth repeating that those who threaten violence and abuse - on whichever side - are a problem. Even if you find old-fashioned feminism anti-trans, threatening people with violence (and frequently sexual violence, of all the ironies) doesn't improve the situation. My guess is that the feeling of power that comes with threatening violence is attractive to people who haven't had a voice, or who haven't felt represented. Identifying as part of a group seems to be comforting, especially when a person doesn't have a clear idea of their own what exactly it is they are: somehow these other people have worked out what I am and given it a name, which is great. Now I belong.
The saddest thing, to me, is that a lot of vulnerable, confused young people get caught in the crossfire. Adults teach their kids to hate or to despise difference, and that 'it just isn't normal'. Well, perhaps it isn't. But it requires a great deal of spiritual strength to accept other people's differences regardless of how strange they might seem. And I'm sad to say that I don't always think I'm able to make my influence stick, but I think fondly on all those occasions where maybe I helped someone to be just that little bit kinder. The future is dark, the present burdensome... Only the past, dead and buried (ish), bears contemplation.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought