Dining across the divide: ‘I was ignorant about trans people. Now I have a better understanding’

Trans issues, Brexit and the royal family: can a trainee nurse and retired anaesthetist find a healthy consensus over dinner?

• Fancy dining across the divide? Find out how to take part

Ada, 38, Witney, Oxfordshire


Occupation In the third year of an adult nursing MSc

Voting record In the US, always Democrat; has yet to vote in a UK general election

Amuse bouche While serving in the US military, Ada was logistics commander for Barack Obama at a G7 summit

Rebecca, 61, near Watford, Hertfordshire


Occupation Retired anaesthetist

Voting record Labour in every general election bar 2019

Amuse bouche Rebecca does large-format photography, with an old-fashioned bellows camera with a black cloth over her head

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For starters

Rebecca Ada looked like a well-presented young woman, and she’s very pleasant, nice and open.

Ada One of the reasons I wanted to do this is because I live in a sheltered, middle-class area of Oxfordshire. I don’t even have a gay person who’s a friend where I live. I wanted to expand my horizons, so having a pleasant lunch with Rebecca was just the ticket.

Rebecca As a trans person, I think about this: are there lots of anti-trans people, or just a small number of very vocal ones? Can trans people overreact? Yes, of course, sometimes.

Ada I had the calamari and then a fish pie.

Rebecca Oh gosh, I had steak and chips. I don’t know why I chose it – my daughter’s a vegan so I wouldn’t normally.

Ada and Rebecca

The big beef

Ada I think self-identification is fine. I don’t believe in the trope that people are going to self-identify as the other sex so they can commit crimes. My beef is with sports. I’m afraid that it’s very one-sided – trans women, especially in America, are starting to take part in athletics, and rarely the other way around. You don’t see many trans men participating in men’s soccer. I’m sorry, but it’s not fair.

Rebecca I can totally get why that’s an issue. But also, is it not everyone’s right to take part in sport? So it’s not straightforward. Trans people don’t want to destroy women’s sport, as a whole. I wouldn’t want to. I do parkruns, and I put down female. I’ve probably knocked somebody from 500th place to 501st. Should I have put down my natal gender?

Ada I think my viewpoint has mellowed somewhat, because of my degree. I had to do a project recently on a trans patient. As a future nurse, I could very well be treating a person from this community. And as I looked into the research, it’s given me more perspective.

Rebecca Trans rights have become a symbol of culture wars, and we’re caught in the middle of all this. If the media starts framing trans people as bad people, and putting them at the centre of bad events, it’s like making out gay people are all sexual predators. Has any trans person ever done anything wrong? Well, of course they have, because they’re also human.

Ada and Rebecca

Sharing plate

Ada Just like everybody else, I thought the EU referendum was nothing to worry about. Just like with Trump at the time, I thought: it’ll be fine. People surely won’t vote for this.

Rebecca I am very anti-Brexit. I still feel angry about the way things were manipulated by the leave campaign. I thought there were unpleasant aspects to it, racist aspects.

At the end of the day, whatever I think, a vote is a vote, and there was a majority vote. You respect that. But I feel very sad.

Ada and Rebecca

For afters

Ada I blame my Americanness for this, maybe, but I do not get the royal family. So they bring in a lot of money, but they cost a lot, too. There are so many other things to spend it on than keeping up this ridiculous institution. People who are in a position of power because they happen to be born into a family … I just don’t get it.

Rebecca I’m a British republican, but I wouldn’t get up and march to get rid of the royal family. My view is that it’s connected to having a House of Lords – I’d rather have an elected upper chamber and no inherited rights.

Ada and Rebecca


Ada Based on the few things that I’d seen and heard, I did have a really ignorant outlook on trans people. Now that I’ve met Rebecca, I think I have a much better understanding of the struggle that they go through.

Rebecca She was a very open-minded, centred person with her feet on the ground. She was lovely. I haven’t got a bad word to say about it.

Ada and Rebecca

Additional reporting: Naomi Larsson

• Ada and Rebecca ate at The Jam Factory, Oxford.

Want to meet someone from across the divide? Find out how to take part


Zoe Williams

The GuardianTramp

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