A sign reading "ladies room" above the door to a women's bathroom. This is from The St James Hotel but I imagine its not far off what the signage in the Marquis of Granby looks like.

Following a piece by a tory councillor in the Daily Mail who alleges that a trans woman attempted to intimidate her in a bathroom we may have tracked down the so-called “penis woman”! Sophie writes;

There are a million bizarre shades of horror to the public lives of trans people in the UK. When you come out as a woman, it’s actually pretty important that someone makes it clear to you that since society at large is going to see you as a man “choosing” to become a woman, you’re going to be the lowest of the low in the public eye and shame isn’t going to be a luxury you can afford any more.

This is why my public policy for the last year or so, as a kinky trans dyke, is best summarised “I suck dick, huff poppers and get fisted for fun, nothing you can do will make me ashamed of who I am.”

Still they try.

Let’s talk about the intersections of disgusting craven bigotry in the British press. The Daily Mail, a newspaper that literally supported literally Hitler, published an article on the 25th February headlined “How a friendly chat in the ladies of a London pub turned menacing and plunged a Tory councillor, 22, into the clash between trans rights and women’s safety”. There is no clash between trans rights and women’s safety, and the manufactured outrage in the British press pretending that there is ignores firstly that women (cis and trans) are capable of doing awful things and secondly what is self evident to a toddler: a society where queer and trans people are safer is definitionally a society where women are safer too.

In the article, Ruby Sampson, 22 year old tory councillor for Cockfosters (lol) claims that she was using the upstairs bathroom in the Marquis of Granby pub in Westminster when she encountered a trans woman, for the first time in her life if her self-congratulatory writing is anything to go off of. After talking about “the paucity of loo paper, the dreadful taps and temperamental hand dryer” the trans woman, who according to Ruby was 6ft tall and “towered” over her, and “wore a skimpy top which made her shoulders seem bigger” said on her way out that she would “wipe her hands on her penis”.

As soon as the article was published dozens or even hundreds of people on social media were pointing out what an unbelievable and incredible thing to say “I’ll wipe my hands on my penis” is. No. Not like amazing or extraordinary. Unbelievable and incredible, as in, who would seriously believe that an actual human person would say “I’ll wipe my hands on my penis”.

Besides the article in the Daily Mail, Sampson also wrote to notorious government transphobe Kemi Badenoch with an account that speculated on the possibility of this phantasm of grotesque transgenderism escalating the situation into sexual violence. Besides the comments in the article talking about how closely she had looked at this woman’s body, she now decided to use her public platform to imagine a scenario in which this anonymous trans woman was sexually violent.

Since we’re talking about the shades of horror of trans existence in the UK, let’s talk about the timing. February in the UK is supposed to be LGBTQ+ history month. The alleged bathroom incident happened on 15th February, mere days after the hateful murder of Brianna Ghey in Culcheth, and on February 15th over 1000 trans people held an angry, desperate, tearful vigil for 16 year old Brianna outside the Department for Education.

Okay, so here’s the thing that’s baking my noodle. I was at that vigil. After that vigil and in order to avoid travelling home alone for fear of far-right attacks, something that has happened in Westminster in recent years to queer people, we adjourned to a local pub. I didn’t take note of it at the time but I now realise it was the Marquis of Granby.

I’m about 6ft tall, and on the day, under a jacket I felt was appropriate and modest for a vigil I was wearing a backless halterneck top. When we got to the pub, I took the jacket off, and I do remember quite clearly, going upstairs to the women’s bathroom where I chatted briefly with a cis woman in order to make the awkwardness of the tiny, cramped bathroom space a little easier for both of us. On my way out, she was talking about the hand dryer not working and said that we’d have to shake our hands dry, to which I replied “I’ll just wipe my hands on my jeans”.

There are more details besides that Sampson wrote in her article that make me pretty sure, although I can’t be totally certain, that the trans woman she encountered was me. I think I might be the penis woman. I can’t say for sure that I recognise her picture in the Daily Heil, but since a friend pointed out to me this morning that we were there when she says this happened, more and more evidence has clicked into place that makes it seem likely that I am in fact the penis woman.

What I’m struggling with even as I write about maybe being the penis woman, is the DARVO tactics that the transphobic British press use to manufacture hatred towards trans women. Everything about our lived experience, our daily lives, the media environment discussing us and our demographic statistically would make it obvious to practically anyone that being a trans woman is about as marginalised as you can get out of the possible gender demographics. But by painting us as dangerous predators, the press would have everyone believe that we are a threat to cis women.

Because of this media gaslighting I’m left thinking “Oh no, what if this woman was seriously traumatised even if it was by her own mishearing of my words, and even if that mishearing seems pretty obviously motivated by bigotry”. I’m being conditioned by our press, just as everyone else is, to set aside my feelings because they’re trans feelings and trans feeling matter less. Trans safety matters less. Trans lives matter less.

When we got to the pub that day it did occur to us that we were in the lion’s den. Drinking in Westminster means being surrounded by the people who are using the mechanisms of government and media to make our lives impossible and push us to the epidemic of trans overdoses and suicides caused by systematic neglect that defines our era of LGBTQ+ oppression just as the systematic neglect of the AIDS crisis defined the 80s and 90s.

Outside the pub I even heard some bro in a balenciaga cap telling his friends that he thought “Kanye West was right about the jews”, and prompting them to start speculating on a group of people that by their own admission in the same conversation they knew absolutely nothing about. Each of them in turn said “I’ve never actually met one.” It strikes me how similar this bigotry, borne out of total insular ignorance that they were displaying towards jews was to the bigotry of Ruby Sampson, first writing about how proud she was that she treated the penis woman like an actual human being, and then quickly falling into believing every stereotype and nasty caricature that she’s been fed by our hateful press.

I think I might be the penis woman but I’m not totally certain. All I know is that I was at a vigil for a murdered child that has been completely ignored by those responsible who would be all the happier if we didn’t exist, and then I went to unwind with my friends in the epicentre of British tory bigotry. We all are told to think that the pubs where the worst anti-minority attitudes will be on display are in working class neighbourhoods, because this reactionary lie – that bigoted attitudes come from the working class and not the bourgeoisie – is meant to make us afraid.

I’ve never had anyone in a pub in a working class neighbourhood challenge me on using the women’s bathroom, look afraid of my presence there, or even really act particularly awkward around me. I certainly haven’t – and by definition of the mechanisms of class and the incestuous relationships between our politicians and media couldn’t have an article written in a national newspaper about me because I used the correct toilet for my gender in a pub in a working class neighbourhood.

When working class women were first allowed to use the same public bathrooms as the women of the ruling class, the delicate fragile sensibilities of the upper class women were the subject of enormous defensive uproar. Most people are of course familiar with the same dynamic at play when public bathrooms were no longer segregated by race in America. What if these filthy working class women do something horrible to our wives. What if these black women do something horrible to our wives. What if these trans women do something horrible to our wives. I would simply posit that anyone who works as a member of the Conservative Party of Great Britain is by definition a bigger threat to women and women’s rights than I could ever be.

I think I might be the penis woman, and all evidence really seems to point to it, but I can’t be absolutely certain. The fact is that I don’t feel especially different today, when I suspect that this article in our national press sexually harassing trans women might be about me specifically, than I did when I was specifically sexually harassed to a large audience (upskirted at a rally for trans rights by a photographer sent by fascist collaborator Andy Ngo), nor different to how I feel basically every day as articles come out that sexually harass all trans women via the specific and frequently anonymous examples given of how “unsafe” and “terrified” bigots feel in our presence because they can’t stop thinking about what’s in our pants.

I might be the penis woman, I might not. Though really; we’re all the penis woman.

This article was funded by LGBT+ Futures: Equity Fund is a two-year £786,000 partnership between Consortium and The National Lottery Community Fund, designed to help community-led and grassroot organisations supporting some of the most under-represented and marginalised LGBT+ communities. Read more here.