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Letters to the Editor

23 February 2024


True transsexuals don’t have AGP

From Leanne Mills

Sir, — I would like to respond to the article about Debbie Hayton and her book Transsexual Apostate (Feature, 16 February).

By Debbie Hayton’s own admission, she was driven to transitioning by a life of cross dressing and — most significantly — by autogynephilia (AGP). So there can be little doubt that she does not suffer from transsexuality in any way; for that is a medical condition diagnosed by doctors for half a century. Moreover, she reveals in her account that she learned to convince her doctors from information that she had gained from the internet.

I should know about this, as I am a male-to-female transsexual, having undergone surgery 30 years ago.

Debbie Hayton’s story is typical of some transvestic men who transition late in life (though, in her case, she now regrets that decision). She is, however, certainly right to raise the contentious subject of AGP, since it goes hand in hand with transgender self-declaration, of which women are understandably terrified, together with the emotional turmoil that the condition inflicts on wives and families when the husband and father suddenly announces a desire to be a woman.

I concur with Debbie Hayton in this respect, but must take issue when she directly accuses people like me of similarly having AGP. Judging by her book, she has had none of the experiences that we transsexuals have lived through. For a start, many of us who transitioned decades ago (and when we were young) are now well integrated. She never did integrate, instead choosing to stay with her wife, following a normal life as a man.

Her very public attacks on us are having consequences. Already, hatred seems to be reaching unprecedented proportions, as shouts of “Child molesters!” erupt across social media. The understanding that we once enjoyed with society and that took decades to build Debbie Hayton seems intent on destroying for ever.

MPs will be swift to heed her calls to escalate their plan to remove our legal rights and treatment. This means integrated transsexuals, whom she never once mentions, will lose jobs, families, and marriages, which she really has no right to take away.

We have already seen the brutal transphobic murder of the teenager Brianna Ghey. Sadly, another such youngster became a victim only the other day. If we are to counter this hate, our side of the story needs to be heard — for the sake of our precious young who are inflicted with the curse that is transsexuality. Surely society can offer them a better future than the one that Debbie Hayton is leading us towards.

Address supplied

Instant removal for the bullies on the PCC

Sir, — The request to the Synod to tackle bullying behaviour by the laity sends a message much welcomed by some clergy in the Church of England (General Synod Preview, 16 February). The private members’ motion from Archdeacon Ireland cannot come before time.

Many years ago, in the secular world of employment, bullying was raising your hand to someone, as Archdeacon Ireland refers to: “While noting that bullying is not defined by law it may be categorised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour.” I have witnessed this at first hand. Shouting, raising of voices, doing things without notifying the parish priest, getting me by myself and telling me that what I was doing was unacceptable, and that the members of the congregation were not happy, when, in fact, it was one family.

I dreaded PCC meetings, as this was where normally bullying would raise its head. It had happened with all of my predecessors — but this had not been mentioned to me at the interview stage. I would return home in tears, questioning my ability as a parish priest at a time when my wife was seriously ill; so I started to look for an alternative living, as it was making me poorly. After many emails and phone calls, I asked my archdeacon what could be done, and was told: “Not a great deal. The clergy can’t bully the laity, but the laity can bully the clergy.”

In my new parish, I have come across volatility. Although it has been uncomfortable, I have decided that if folk shout and raise their voices and threaten me with resignations, then I will accept them there and then. Some of the clergy are not so strong-willed, and will leave a living. Bullying by the churchwardens and PCC does not just hurt the individuals, but also their families. There is, as Archdeacon Ireland states, a total imbalance of accountability.

A Code of Conduct will not bring about any consequence, as no actions or sanctions will be taken or imposed against people who bully clergy. The moment that bullying raises its head, the perpetrators should be held accountable and removed from office with immediate effect. It happens in the scholarly world, why not the Church?


Looking back to the trial of Brandon Jackson

From the Ven. J. H. C. Laurence

Sir, — I was glad to read of the Revd Jane Fife’s regrets (Comment, 16 February) that she had not given support to Verity Freestone in the trial that found Brandon Jackson not guilty of conduct unbecoming. An experienced JP observer found Verity’s testimony, so painfully delivered, completely convincing, and was shocked by the verdict of not guilty. Verity kindly lent me her copy of the official transcription of the trial when I was writing a book (Painful Chapter) about the Lincoln affair, and the finding of the assessors seemed equally surprising.

Much later, I asked one of them how they could have given such a perverse verdict. “Well,” he said, “we knew that if we found him guilty he would have fought this through the courts, and the whole sorry business would just drag on and on.”

How tragic that the reputation of a vulnerable young woman could have been rubbished so casually, and how shameful that justice was not done! Verity Freestone certainly deserved better support.

5 Haffenden Road
Lincoln LN2 1RP

From Jane Henson

Sir, — I wish to thank the Revd Janet Fife for her honesty and openness about a matter that has been covered up for most of the past 50 years. I also worked for Brandon Jackson, but in an administrative capacity.

He was a bully, a serious sexual predator, he distorted the truth and seriously damaged and, in some cases, ruined the lives of very many people whom he had abused by his words or actions. I have spent a lot of time being alongside and listening to many people who have been damaged by this man. He was defended by leading churchmen who did not have the courage to tell the truth.

Bishop Robert Hardy was the one brave person who took him to a Consistory Court, because he knew that he was guilty of the charge brought against him by Verity, but Jackson surrounded himself with bishops and others who would not say a word against him. Most of those in the court knew that he was guilty, but it could not be proved, because of the high-level church witnesses.

I fear that the priest is still believed more than the victims, and molesting and preying on young women is not seen as being as bad as doing so to young men. I would love to think that this kind of fear to tell the truth does not go on, but Janet Fife’s experience would show that it does.

6 Ganton Close, Mapperley
Nottingham NG3 3ET

From Mary Twidell

Sir, — The Revd Janet Fife’s account makes for very sad and disturbing reading. No one can doubt the pain and distress that she is suffering. I cannot comment on the situations that she describes. I feel compelled to say, however, that in any such situation there is pain and distress for all involved, including, most importantly, the families of those at the centre of such incidents.

Mary Jackson is still alive. I was privileged, as a member of the Leicester Diocese Retired Clergy and Families Committee, to visit her and Brandon before their move to sheltered accommodation. Every visit that I made was a delight, and every visit ended with our praying together. They both showed great pastoral concern for others and enjoyed frequent visits from many from their former parishes.

I hope, for Mary’s sake and for all involved, that the matter can be laid to rest.

Bridgford House
Horninghold LE16 8DH

The commination service and imposition of ashes

From Eleanor Burnham

Sir, — The Revd Adrian Leak’s assertion in his article (Faith, 16 February) that the Prayer Book commination is “strong on judgement but weak on love” is demonstrably false. The commination mentions the word “judgment” only three times, “wrath” only twice, and “anger” and “indignation” only once each, whereas it mentions the word “mercy” a full 16 times.

Were Mr Leak to turn the page from the “alarming catalogue of human misdeeds” taken out of the seven-and-twentieth chapter of Deuteronomy, he would find numerous reminders of God’s mercy and love, placed there by Cranmer just as he placed the Comfortable Words in the communion service: to comfort those who have repented, and assure them of God’s pardoning grace.

“O most mighty God, and merciful Father, who hast compassion upon all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made . . . thy property is always to have mercy; to thee only it appertaineth to forgive sins . . . for thou art a merciful God, full of compassion, long-suffering, and of great pity.”

This is not a service that is in any way “weak on love”.

156 Green Lane, Carlisle
Cumbria CA2 7PU

From the Revd William Chatterton

Sir, — In strict terms, Canon Andrew Warner is right (Letters, 16 February), in that Jesus warned against showing off your piety, and that thus ashing goes against his teaching. He was, however, speaking against practices of open devotion which garnered social prestige, undertaken for that reason. In societies in which proclaiming oneself as Christian brings social advantage, his strictures hold true. This society isn’t one of them. Ash away.

44 Harland Road
London SE12 0JA

Hate attacks on Jews

From the Revd Dr Nathan Eddy

Sir, — We are in the middle of a record surge in antisemitism, as a report last week from the Community Security Trust made clear. Antisemitism is often discussed in terms of grey areas, and rightly so — as in debates over when criticism of Israel might cross the line. The Trust’s report is something very different. It notes 36 cases of someone being spat on because they were thought to be Jewish, and 58 cases of something being thrown at someone else, for the same reason.

Disturbingly, the report also found that most incidents occurred shortly after the Hamas attack, and before Israel’s retaliation. In other words, the surge seems to have been motivated by a desire to glorify the events of 7 October 2023 — and not by the war.

There remain many grey areas in relation to the Middle East, but hate of this sort is not one of them. All of us should find it abhorrent, and more education is urgently needed.

Council of Christians and Jews
Faith House
7 Tufton Street
London SW1P 3QB

Silent disco, holy disco

From the Revd Jonathan Jennings

Sir, — The outrage over Canterbury Cathedral’s silent disco strikes me as strange, considering that no one turns a hair at the secular classical-music lunchtime and evening concerts regularly held in cathedrals and churches, including St John’s, Smith Square, and St Martin-in-the-Fields, in London. These have been popular and uncontroversial for decades.

Over-serving those of a Radio 3/Radio 4/Classic FM demographic in our churches has invariably been been the norm and a worrying failure. That some are intending to reach out beyond that decidedly narrow field to embrace the Radio 1/Radio 2/Heart FM demographic makes perfect sense, at least to this former radio presenter.

Address supplied (Rainham, Kent)

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