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After Cass, do I still have the right to be me?

As a queer woman, I feel my identity is as important as anyone else’s. Yet where is my place of safety?

Photo: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing/Getty

Matthew d’Ancona’s “Gids is a scandal on a par with the Post Office” (TNE #384) was hard-hitting but without much balance.

I am a queer woman, preferring not to use the word “trans”. I travelled down the medical route and had to be referred to three psychiatrists for full assessment before surgery.

My journey was not easy and I would not wish it on anyone: psychiatrists, a gender specialist, a court to decide if I can be recognised as me when I knew who I was as a child.

I feel my identity is as important as Matthew’s or any of the women he mentions as gender-critical. I have no wish to take away cis women’s rights nor am I any threat to them. Yet where is my place of safety? It seems to me that according to these women, I have no right to be me.
Roberta Helen

The Cass review is potentially very dangerous. The consequences of restricting medical options for under-25s will have all sorts of knock-on effects for youth healthcare.
Jared Kidda

Matthew d’Ancona offers a list of women vilified by trans activists who are now vindicated by the Cass review. Can I make mention of the writer and philosopher Dr Jane Clare Jones? She deserves to be included in that group.
David Newble

Dignity in later life
Re: Nigel Warburton on assisted dying (Everyday Philosophy, TNE #384).

I have watched a beloved relative slide into late-stage dementia over the last four years – she now can’t remember the names of her children. But she is not in pain, she is attended to in a private care home and when she eventually dies almost her entire estate will be sold to pay for the last four years of her life, most of which she can’t remember.

Is it humane to keep her this way, or is it just the last chance for the current system to extract remaining value from her? She would never have wanted this existence for herself – she told me that in better days.

In similar circumstances, my lovely grandmother had significant brain damage after a series of strokes and spent her final miserable two years in a sequence of hospitals, often struggling to understand who we were or where she was. She finally found her release in an NHS facility with eight to a ward, all crying out for help or attention at every hour of the day or night.

I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, it’s cruel. I’m still in my 30s but I hope to heaven that by the time I am at that stage, society will have found a kinder way to allow people the right to choose their end with dignity. But that would rely on political bravery which seems in short supply in this country.
Rory Wilson

Working in healthcare has made me a strong advocate for assisted dying. We should have the right to choose.
Helen Wells

While I agree with the basic idea – that there ARE times when assisted dying should be allowed – the “thin end of the wedge” argument should be taken more seriously.

When abortion was first legalised in the 1960s, it was supposed to be limited to cases where there was genuine risk to the mother’s physical or mental health, or that of one or more of her family members. This quickly broadened, and abortion is now seen as a human right. 

Whether you agree with that move or not, it certainly wasn’t what was proposed at the beginning. So in this case, if we want to change the law, we need a real debate about the limits of what’s going to be allowed, and the new law must be tightly drafted to avoid “mission creep.” The slope must have a solid barrier at the point we want it stop.
Tony Jones

Real estates
In “A rent revolution could be Labour’s big idea”, Paul Mason (TNE #384) starts well before spoiling it all when he backs James Ball’s absurd solution in TNE #382 of concreting over much of the Green Belt. 

Who will actually build the required 300,000 houses a year for five years – and install the heat pumps and solar panels – is an interesting Brexit question since the “Polish plumbers” have all returned home.

Where I live, hundreds of new houses have been built in the last five years on green fields but have house prices gone down? No, in fact they have increased at one of the highest rates in the country.

“Affordable houses” are simply unaffordable for young people and those on moderate incomes. And the number of “social houses” can be counted on one hand. Will Labour in power any better? Not if we go by their past record which turns out to have been even worse than the Tories.

Building houses is among the most carbon intensive industries. Each time we build on so-called scrub land – where, actually, a lot of wildlife live – we drive animals into an ever-diminishing habitat.

Meanwhile, official figures show that even if you built all the houses, prices would temporarily drop by a maximum of 5%. That would make no difference to so-called “affordable housing”. The real problem is land value and then rents, which is what really dictates house prices, not supply.

But Mason and Ball simply want to bulldoze their way – to what?
Stephen Dorril, Netherthong, West Yorkshire

Without an end to “right to buy” and a social housing ambition along the lines of the pre- and post-second world war era, any discussion about real affordable housing is meaningless.
Brian Morgan

The long view
Will Self’s nostalgic piece on the View-Master (TNE #384) made me dash immediately to check for mine in the place where old cameras and equipment are left to gather dust. 

I was relieved to find the “machine” and two accompanying reels in good order and the Belgian lace-makers still shuttling back and forth. We bought our viewer in Bruges in the Sixties – and it still works!
Tony Baws, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex

Brexit spells trouble
If Tony Olsen (Letters, TNE #384) is concerned about the spread of American English in Lithuania, he should take a look at what is happening in the EU institutions. Now there are no Brits there to correct them, American spellings and vocabulary are creeping into EU documents more than ever before. 

A consequence of Brexit that the self-styled “patriots” can no doubt pride themselves on!
Richard Corbett

Good Will thinking
Will Hutton’s hope-inducing analysis of how to turn the next election result into a first step towards a “We Society” (“The state we should be in”TNE #383) failed to mention the main roadblock to achieving his goal. This is Labour’s fiscal rules fetishism, with its steadfast refusal to adequately tax and borrow to fund the around £200bn required annually to transform the country’s crumbling social sectors and tackle the climate and nature crisis.

Countering this approach, Hutton correctly asserts that the “money can be found” to begin achieving this necessary transition by the end of the first parliament. Tax expert Professor Richard Murphy details at his website ( how to raise £90bn or more of additional tax revenues a year by increasing the taxation on income from wealth. 

Another huge investment generator proposed would be a change in the tax incentives for saving in ISAs and pensions. This would ensure that all new ISA funds and 25% of all new pension contributions were required to be saved in ways that might help fund new infrastructure projects, including those linked to the climate crisis. Were this to occur then up to £100bn of funds might be made available for that purpose a year.
Colin Hines

Nothing too taxing
Better ideas than Patience Wheatcroft’s tourist tax (TNE #383): Taxing the very wealthy, making the Windsors pay inheritance tax, closing all offshore tax havens under British control.
Dieter Nowak

The country is more expensive than most European countries, so why do you believe that making it even more expensive would make it more attractive?
Pam Thompson

Record popularity
“The world’s coolest record label” (TNE #383) was a wonderful piece about ECM, an absolutely wonderful label. I love their album covers as much as the music too.
Gareth Bouch

Spot of bother
I always smile at any reference to Dalmatia (Peter Trudgill, TNE #383) as it reminds me of my birthday many years ago. My mother was surprised at the enthusiasm shown by my Bulgarian father at the prospect of taking me and some young friends on a cinema outing to see 101 Dalmatians

After we got back he explained rather bemusedly that he’d been expecting a film about WWII Yugoslavian resistance fighters.
Verity Kalcev, Lindfield, West Sussex

Unlucky for some
Christopher Rails’s letter (TNE #381) about living in a house numbered 15 in a road without a No 13 reminded me of Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse novel, Death Is Now My Neighbour.

In it, a blackmail victim traces the blackmailer to a house numbered 15 in a small side street. The victim then gets a gun and goes to the back alley behind the houses and starting from No 1, counts off eight houses. They wait for the occupant of the eighth to appear in the kitchen and when they do appear, shoots and kills them.

Unfortunately, the blackmail victim doesn’t realise that there is no No 13 in the street and so kills the occupant of No 17 instead.
Colin Price, Ilford, Greater London

Delusion under Labour
I support TNE in its aim of getting rid of the Tories without delay. But does that mean it should cease to hold Sir Keir Starmer and Labour to account?

One example – the Tories have refused to release the £5bn requested by the Labour Welsh government as its rightful share of the huge HS2 rail project. So after the election, Sir Keir will ride to the rescue, right?

Wrong, he has made no commitment to put things right. This is true of a string of other issues, devolution of policing and the courts among them. When it comes to treating part of the UK as a second-class colony, it seems the Tories have no monopoly.
Dr Dafydd Williams, Abertawe, Cymru

Nervous system
I understand the faults of first-past-the-post, but I am scared of what I see under proportional representation in countries such as Italy, Austria and good gracious, even the Netherlands. 

It seems to help radical, often very right wing parties to get a meaningful say in governments – just look at what has happened in Israel.

I realise there is more than one PR system but don’t feel confident that any of them will prevent the loonies sneaking in. 

Can any other readers put my mind at rest?
Liz Rolfs, Brackenhurst, Hampshire


Comments, conversation and correspondence from our online subscribers

Re: Mick O’Hare’s “Think without borders”, on separatist movements (TNE #384). Regional autonomy works well in Germany, Spain, Switzerland and many more places. The UK is far too centralised. This policy of everything from Westminster is failing the nation. 

Talk of possible independence is not practical or desirable, but denying Yorkshire a regional parliament to boost its economy because of the far-fetched idea that one day we may seek independence is an excuse to keep the north down. If London has an assembly, why not Yorkshire?

I read recently that 70% of Scots below the age of 50 want to leave the UK and rejoin the EU. So Scottish independence seems likely in the long term…

How dare his lordship, Cameron, suggest his visit with Trump was private (Mandrake, TNE #384)? If he paid for his airfare, accommodation and food costs, fine. If it cost me a ha’penny, it’s my business.

Re: Jonty Bloom’s “Third way of water” (TNE #384). I’m fed up with inadequate overseers and greedy investors. These companies emerged 30-40 years ago because of our lack of cash to upgrade waterworks. Now we must pay to not only upgrade the business but repair the damage caused in the meantime and ignore the cash paid upfront to investors! Non-profit sounds good to me.

 We always confuse so-called public ownership with state ownership. The state is the creature of politicians and state institutions are vulnerable to greedy unions. But having cooperatively owned or, as in the case of Welsh Water, private ownership for the benefit of the public alone is what we need.

Here’s a thought about Matthew d’Ancona’s “Hate speech laws don’t work” (TNE #383): If someone in England makes a posting about someone in Scotland that is considered hateful under the new law, can they be arrested?JOHN GLASPOOL


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