Dining across the divide: ‘He was incredibly inconsistent in his views’

Recognition for trans people, the distribution of wealth and taxation: can two strangers agree on anything?

Torran, 30, Manchester


Occupation Site reliability engineer

Voting record Labour in every general and local election since he started voting, except one vote for the Lib Dems, later regretted

Amuse bouche Can recite the first 30 digits of pi

Martin, 55, Cheadle


Occupation Brand consultant. Martin previously founded and ran a brand and design business

Voting record Has always been a Labour voter, but has considered himself politically homeless since 2017

Amuse bouche Serves on the board of “Britain’s boldest orchestra”

For starters

Martin I knew I was meeting a trans person. I was concerned it would be someone who wanted to educate me or be aggressive. Both of us positively and warmly went out of our way to establish that we were going to be OK together and have a nice evening.

Torran I prefer a quiet life most of the time. But I no longer feel I can sit back – it’s gone too far. Meeting ordinary people with anti-trans views and showing them that we’re just people, not some sort of evil conspiracy, sometimes has to be part of that. And honestly, the food was incredible.

Martin It was a new take on Mittel European cuisine.

Torran I had spätzle – solid pasta tubes.

Martin I had interesting dumplings.

Martin and Torran

The big beef

Martin I was really straight. I said: “I believe that a trans man is a biological female.” My view is that person is a biological woman who’s living life as a trans man. We didn’t talk about pronouns because when you’re having a conversation, you don’t need to.

Torran No one is more aware of biological sex than trans people. It’s an absurd idea that we’re trying to ignore it. It’s defined a lot of our lives. You don’t, when you meet someone, do a DNA swab and check their chromosomes – we base things on instincts and what people look like. If you want to delve into genotype [the set of genes in DNA responsible for a particular trait] and phenotype [the physical expression of that trait], then if someone’s phenotypically female, they’re female, regardless of what they’ve got in their pants.

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Martin It was like going in to debate about the royal family with a member of the royal family. Sex is immutable. My fear is you’re not allowed to say that, and it makes me a terrorist, a bigot, a phobic, unworthy of keeping my job.

Torran Whenever I brought up a fact that contradicted him or a study I knew about or information that he didn’t have, he’d say: “I don’t have that to hand – I’ll never be as well informed as you on this because it’s your life.” At one point, I pulled out my phone to show him what the Equality and Human Rights Commission says – that people should be treated as the gender they’re transitioning to at any stage in the transition. Then he hared off in a different direction entirely.

Martin Everybody’s got their own version of science. There is no incontrovertible truth. Everybody must identify as they wish, everybody must be supported. But this is a space where truth and immutable biology aren’t accepted. I find that depressing.

Torran He was incredibly inconsistent in his views.

Martin and Torran

Sharing plate

Martin We agreed on wealth redistribution. If the next generation is going to be the first that’s poorer than the one that came before, then my generation has the responsibility to sort that out. Torran’s view was to do it all through inheritance tax.

Torran Yeah, broadly, we agreed with making boomers pay more money to help young people who are skint. I’m in favour of just rinsing people when they’re dead. He’s more in favour of making them pay when they’re alive.

Martin and Torran

For afters

Torran We have pretty much the same political views, except he thinks the Labour party’s job is to be electable. Its job is to be electable but still Labour.

Martin I think the Labour party is currently unelectable.

Martin and Torran


Martin Torran was more reasonable than I was expecting. We had more in common than I expected, within and besides the trans thing.

Torran He described believing in gender identity as a religion. You hear this a lot – “It’s a belief system.” The logical conclusion of that is that there’s no basis for the belief. Trans people aren’t real. I was annoyed. And tired. He drove off and I wandered to the pub.

Martin and Torran

• Martin and Torran ate at The Spärrows in Manchester

Want to meet someone from across the divide? Click here to find out more


Zoe Williams

The GuardianTramp

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