When a sprout transitions …

I’m cautious about opening up trans politics on Facebook as I have collected an eclectic set of Friends, but I hoped that gut politics might even transcend the chasm between trans apologists and gender criticals.

Christmas this year was a blessed relief from political campaigning. Brexit and Transgender Politics have threatened to take over my life over the past two years, but last week I averted myself from politics. That’s not a trivial exercise when, 90 days from a possibly cataclysmic exit from the European Union, our political leaders still appear to be wishing for a miracle.

Wishful thinking also dominates transgender politics. In an environment where people seem to think that a woman is anyone who wants to be a woman, and disregard any possibility of men taking advantage, I’ve had multiple Victor Meldrew and John McEnroe moments. But whether I believed it or not, it seems that they are serious. Even the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee suggested it would be a good idea to base the law on feelings.

Both Brexit and Transgender Politics are dominated by battles of head versus heart: thoughts or feelings; wants or needs; facts or opinions? This Christmas, however, I stumbled into politics grounded on something even more fundamental than heads or hearts – our intestines, the very source of our gut feelings. I entered the realm of brussels sprouts politics. While sprouts are easily blocked on the internet, they are a force to be reckoned with on the dinner table.

The brussels sprout may look like a harmless green vegetable but, in the words of one family member, it contains the horror of an entire cabbage in one single mouthful. Nevertheless at only 29 p for 500 g they were a bargain as well as important source of vitamins and roughage for all the family, so I bought lots. The UK grows 50,000 tonnes of them annually so no matter how Brexit turns out we will continue to enjoy a good half kilo – each – every Christmas. What is not to like about sprouts?

After two days of boiled sprouts, steamed sprouts and baked sprouts, my culinary skills extended to curried Sprouts. My children really did think I was joking until the photo came through in their Facebook newsfeeds. Such is family life these days: instead of talking to each other, we now exchange messages across social media. But while verbal threats could have been discounted, photographic evidence was irrefutable.

As I laboured in the kitchen, an improbable transition took place in my wok. Those once green crunchy spheres, full of vitamin C, became squidgy yellowy ovals infused with fat, salt and spices. And no transition piece is ever complete without the before and after shots.

What were once private family conversations are now also shared with the world, or at least all your Facebook Friends. I’m cautious about opening up trans politics on Facebook as I have collected an eclectic set of Friends, but I hoped that gut politics might even transcend the chasm between trans apologists and gender criticals.

I won’t share the responses publicly. Friends-only posts should stay friends only, but anonymised data is fair game. 48 hours after the infamous post I had 88 reactions. I am not shallow enough to measure my self-worth by the number of people who notice my posts, but I did get a peculiar boost when 88 Friends reacted. 43 people even commented!

Of the 88 there were 50 thumbs ups, though the fact that they were too far away in time and space to enjoy the actual contents of my wok did need to be considered before the raw data was cooked up into any conclusion. Ha-ha was the next greatest response at 29. I like to think that they were laughing with me, with my creativity, but I decided it was best not to ask. Five people loved the photo – they know what they will be getting to eat they next time they visit – while three people gave that “wow” reaction that I use when I am stunned beyond words. Nobody cried and only one person responded with that scowling emoticon that I generally reserve for the latest outrage from President Trump. Unfortunately she was the only one of the 88 who actually had to eat the curry.

Curried sprouts aside, I hope that 2019 brings people together. Transgender politics is even more divisive than Brexit. Not only is it emotional, for many it is personal. People fear that their rights will be trumped by other groups that can shout louder and bend the ears of policy makers. Maybe next year we can move beyond the fear and anger, and rebuild trust and confidence? That goal is surely something we can all agree on?

By Debbie Hayton

Physics teacher and trade unionist.

4 replies on “When a sprout transitions …”

A beautiful post, Debbie. We’re all after the same things in life: a measure of security, money, food, a nice place we can call home, etc. The divisiveness need not be.

Your post inspired me. And, Debbie, let’s have more chats in 2019, including about physics if you’d like. We are following each other on Twitter, here’s to more chats!

Stephen Parry


Wow. That Parliantary summary is a scary piece, laden with baseless and bland assertions. I hope they have rowed a little by now. It was clearly all from a few self appointed activists. The NHS gets a very unfair hammering. What is it with this continuing secretive obsession with “passing” and being “outed” or “deadnamed” and the drive to legislate thought crimes. Seems so seventies to me. I’m happy living life as a carrot. Ok, people might spot that I was born a sprout or they might not but I really don’t care. So I’m a bit green and round. And…? Keep up the great work on retaining some sanity in this debate Debbie. Women’s Place UK is doing well. Good piece from Corinna Cohn on Quilette yesterday.


The Women and Equalities Committee report is not ageing well. You are right … their consultation was rather limited and lacked a wider perspective. Hopefully by broadening the consultation we can find a basis for trans rights that is both robust and does not impinge on the rights of other protected groups.


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