Bullying myself

No one bullies me. I bully myself.

I get early to the office, and there is no one there. I can do scanning. However there is no scanner on M’s computer. I try S’s scanner, but M’s computer does not recognise it. As I move it, the paper feed mechanism falls off. I put it back, finding that tricky. I use S’s scanner on S’s computer but it chews up the paper. I swear at it.

D’s computer does not recognise my smart card. I use K’s computer: it works, but then she comes back and needs it herself.

I look at the paper feed and see how I did not put it back properly, so I fix it. After fifty minutes, I scan my first document.

I am upset because I am bullying myself. No-one else is expecting anything of me. The Wrong Thing I did was to swear, but apart from that I have behaved creatively and determinedly, dealing with each problem in turn. Yet I have internally berated myself, telling myself I should be able to deal with this with no problem, far more quickly than I do. J said if all that had happened to her she would just of gone home.

This is perfect, I decide. My purpose in being here is finding my blocks to work, and my bullying is such a block. How do I feel now? Hurt by my own bullying, and sad, and frustrated by the difficulty. Others complain of friction at work, problems with the processes that take much longer than they ideally would. I suppose that would be more stressful if I had more to do and only an ideal time to do it.

So I reassess my response to the morning’s challenges, decide that I responded well, and get on with the scanning.

I don’t know how I managed any work at all, bearing this taskmaster within. Especially as I was not fully conscious of it, just feeling bad because of it and feeling always inadequate. Finding it and seeing it has been a long journey, and I still have to think about it, take time to observe what I am feeling and consciously decide that I am working well enough.

Hugs and masks

This social group practises consensual touch, and I have been held and cuddled this weekend. I feel revivified, warmed, cared for.

It is a wonderful exercise, and quite simple. In pairs, one touched the other. The other responds yes, to consent, no to veto such touching, “Pause” to consider, or “please” to show enthusiasm. The giver of touch can say nothing but the phrase “Are you still there?” if there is no response.

And then, in pairs, ask for what you want.

I want to be held. In fact I want to be cradled. I feel incapable of facing the demands on me, and without support, and this is lovely. I look up at my friend, and she looks down at me and smiles.

We started with a series of personal growth weekends, but from around 2000 they built a community of those who had done level one. I joined in 2011, when there were a number of community camps, and though we don’t have the courses in the UK any more, we still have community gatherings. It had been fading for a while- our youngest participants are in their forties, and when I wanted to encourage those actresses into it I felt unable to as there were no men their age.

My friend held the gathering in her three acre garden, and I went early to help put up the marquees. I also helped with food prep.

We have lots of time to sit around in the sun talking, or enjoying the garden, and we started our personal growth activities with a ritual in which we make eye contact with each other participant in turn, and appreciate them. It seemed to me that even in this work, where we seek maturity, self-knowledge and growth, I was wearing a mask. I know the rules of these workshops. I share my feelings and touch as required, and even get more able to know them, yet hide my true self so well I hide it from myself.

And I know what I should feel- pleasurable anticipation- so when I actually feel irritation at what I perceive as timewasting it’s a shock. I seek refuge in rules, even here which is supposed to liberate my authenticity.

Possibly I have never really participated in such activities at all.

Go with it. What do I feel, really? Anxiety, frustration, a touch of anger. Fairly normal, then.

Making the eye contact, a ritual I have found pleasant, is confusing and painful now. Rather than safe, non-threatening types also following rules, these are human beings, with different characters, perceptions, feelings. Perhaps I see them better than I have seen people before (consciously, at least).

I become aware how I reinforce privilege and oppression, also unconsciously. People ignore her, she says, as they see her as unattractive therefore uninteresting. I did too. I saw her in 2011 and have not really talked to her before today. I saw what her profession was, and that made me take note, though I had mistaken her level in it. My ignoring her and paying attention to another will hold her back. That she is where she is, is despite an unfair system I uphold.

Similarly with one of the most generous, self-effacing man I know. I am on the first floor chopping veg by the window, and notice him walking past below. “What are you doing, skiving there?” I call down at him. I thought of it as a “joke”, though I felt on some level even as I said it that it was mean. Then I thought I would never have shouted like that at a white man, and was ashamed. I apologised later, surprising him. He had thought nothing of it.

When she talked of being invisible, I was tempted to give a consoling hug, but forebore- we agreed after that such a hug would be disrespectful. It means people will still ignore you, but you can’t complain about it any more.

I find another woman attractive. I find myself acting coquettish or shyly girlish with her. Even though I have transitioned I don’t believe in transsexuals, not really. My femininity surprises me.

It is Me, I decide. I will go with it. It is against the rules I was taught, for men, and I am judging myself, and I am untangled enough to accept.

I talk to another small woman used to being invisible, and she impresses me. She values me, too, calling me highly intelligent and caring. And a man I asked if he respected me seven years ago finally said that he does. These people value me. I am once again with a tribe I might sojourn in, and it feels good.

“Do you have wise people you can see at home?” she asks. Well. It’s complicated.

Peterborough cathedral

Cutting it fine for my train, after lunch I dashed back to the cathedral. The sun would now be shining on its west end.

That lantern, and the “book” advertising that the cathedral is 900 years old, shows this view is not designed for the photographer. I cannot get the whole in the frame without those in the way. But the camera would not replicate the experience of seeing: you do not see it all at once, anyway.

The cathedral was begun nine centuries ago, and completed 120 years later. Then it was extended at the East end in 1500.

The newer part has fan vaulting. Looking from the East, you see the round Norman arches of the side aisles.

like the Norman arches, feeling solid, but the fan vaulting is beautiful. Finishing with the West wall,  the builders changed to the modern fashion for Gothic arches.

Around that  arch the carvings are simple and rural:

This is the view from the East end.

This is my favourite art work. The flash picks out her detail, but changes their visibility.

Taking a much younger Peter than older art usually shows without flash, I represent the natural light reflecting in his leg but not the detail of his face.

The Cross is from 1975. The gold contrasts with the skeletal figure. I did  not like that emaciation, but my friend feels he has a kind face.

She does not like the memento mori on one of the memorials, though.

Anguish and relief

It’s lovely when someone understands.

I had a difficult morning. My phone was not displaying my emails. Then the banking app was not working. Then I cycled to Zhuzhkov fifteen minutes early so I could go to the bank. Then I spent twenty minutes in the bank, waiting or talking to two different staff members until finally I could not make a payment there either- partly my fault.

Ten minutes late I went into the office, and could not get the main program to work. I tried various things, and a countdown froze at twenty. “Turn it on and off again,” suggested a colleague so I did. I kep fiddling, and eventually it counted down and I was in- I had done something which hadn’t worked before, but the system had mercy on me.

As so often, my distress was bearable as I kept trying, and only unbearable when I am actually in. I know what I have to do:

Pause
Feel the feeling
Recognise and accept it
Let it pass through me

But I can’t. I am desperate not to show a physical sign of it, so I suppress it, so I start crying.

You listen and understand and it is lovely. I am expressing things about how feelings work which chime with your experience and that gives you the same feeling of affirmation. My inner critic tells me none of this should matter, and we both know what it says and why it is wrong.

I am not sure all my distress will win empathy. I feel pride in my gifts- I pleaded an oral hearing before the Social Security Commissioner, that’s High Court level, and now I have difficulty with basic data entry, even if it is a glitch rather than my fault. I am so humiliated by having no money and dressing like a tramp. Steady, we all have our problems, you might say.

The weeping, talking, and being heard, only takes five minutes and I feel much better, though tired after the wrenching of it. I get on with my data entry. This is why I am here, to face these problems, and practise feeling and accepting my feelings. This is a win.

I left early, and phoned the Samaritans. I need to decide whether to go to Edinburgh in September. My depraved superego has a hellish reason to go. It says of course I should go. It will be the delight such things are expected to be. Any difficulty I anticipate is simply foolish. No one with any backbone would have a problem.

But I, me myself, my love and truth freed from the crushing mask of pseudo-conventionality my mother, inner critic or superego has forced on me, has a good reason to go. If I can do the emotional work and come to accept my own feelings in two months, I might be able to talk authentically, honestly, with my family and repair our broken relationship.

Discussing this, I admit to myself that I can’t. I have to accept my own feelings when something relatively trivial goes wrong before I can try that. Don’t run before you can walk, however desperate I am to run.

Descartes, trapped in scepticism and not trusting any of the reasons he had been given for believing anything he had been taught to believe, nevertheless realised that he was thinking, and therefore he must exist- whatever “he” was. In the same way, I have a sense of myself. These are my feelings. The inner critic or superego is an introject.

Sue, this afternoon, said I am kind. I know. I have sufficient memories of responding kindly, and enough people have said it, for me to accept the evidence that I am.

How do you feel now, asks Charlotte the Samaritan. A peculiar mixture: anguish and relief. Anguish as my ability to face the world seems so weak, yet relief that I am not running away any more, but facing my difficulties. It’s not “by opposing end them,” that can never be guaranteed, but I have decided to try.

“You sound very hard on yourself,” she says. “You have come such a long way.” And I choose to tell that story. Until September 2009 I could have told you of my mother watching me weeping and with all the distress of the eight or nine year old me said “She didn’t understand!” And then I realised, she didn’t understand. She couldn’t. She was blameless, and to “forgive” her is the wrong way to conceive of it. I should not expect perfection of her. I thought I had settled into love and acceptance of my mother, but when I tell Charlotte this story I surprise myself by screaming it.

She didn’t understand!

I may have accepted, but today see how badly I remain hurt.

It is so hard to unlock and reprogram myself! It was hard even to see the problem, it was just how the world was.

“You have told so much. It’s so powerful,” she says.

London Pride

The affirmation of Pride may live with me. Walking as people cheer is a wonderful experience.

I started seeing people on the train to London. That sequined coat is surely for Pride. Walking from the station to Portland Place I saw t-shirts with pride slogans, and felt I was there already. We met in a park, and settled in to worship, some sitting on the grass, some on a bench because of mobility issues. We are inclusive.

One introduced herself by her male name, then offered the female alternative as an afterthought or apology. We are rueful, often, taking our first steps of transition. It feels like failing to make a go of life as a man, or failing to be a man like other men can. Even now I feel some ruefulness though I have been living as myself for seventeen years. It is so difficult! Yet- this is who I am.

We go to point C near the front of the procession. We are behind a group from a university, students and staff together. The group behind has amps playing music of LGBT influence: I’m gonna make a supersonic woman of you….

As we march there is a constant sound of cheering. Some put out their hands to shake or high-five. Along the route announcers give the names of the passing groups and each are cheered. A man behind me takes the microphone briefly and gives their campaigning message. Gill knows about it, discusses it with them and this delights them. They are not alone.

There is a huge group of affirming Christians, some dressed as angels. The church will not drive us out.

We got to the end by 3.30, but some at the back were hanging around for hours and not finished by 6.30. That would be dispiriting, especially if you connected it with being trans.

I also think ally groups like L with the T are diluted if there are too many trans women with them. The point is that cis lesbians support us.

We went to the Westminster Quaker meeting house and hung out. A woman of Canadian origin told me that until she came to the UK she had thought sweets were for children, and had been amazed to see chocolates marketed at adults. And parents stuffed their kids’ faces with sweeties. Another told me when she says “I’m an immigrant” people demur. But she is, in the sense of a person born abroad, who has made her home here. The word immigrant has developed connotations of interloper, outsider, even untermensch, while as from the white areas of the former Empire she is seen as acceptable. It irks her. It irks me too.

I wandered off with Y for a drink. Unfortunately she had picked up a street bicycle, and now could find no stand to return it. Not could she ride it, as the streets were heaving. Eventually I waited sitting by a statue while she went off to find a place to leave it. I saw a man in full stage armour on a cycle-rickshaw.

Then we dashed round the Natalya Goncharova exhibition. I loved the huge peasant Christ, blessing with both hands. He shines. His gaze is overpowering. On the tube we saw drag queens in wedding dresses.

As I unlocked my bicycle at Swanston I chatted to a man in rainbow tights of how wonderful I had found the day, but what I mean about the railway carriages being mine is this. There was a man with a sash saying “It’s my Birthday” trying to get the carriage singing. We all know Wonderwall. He wasn’t too rowdy, as such men go; at one point he was chatting to a group of strangers, as they were all teachers. Quite civilised, really. But as I got off he apologised. Usually I find rowdiness threatening, but at that moment, even in aged wig with a rainbow streak still visible on my face, I felt invincible.

Pride in London

London came out to party. The city is mine. The railway carriages are mine.


I marched with Quakers, specifically the Quaker Gender and Sexuality Diversity community.

It’s difficult to take photos when you’re holding a banner. We had two of these:


There were 30,000 wristbands issued for the March, but many thousands more watching. Some of the entertainment was in the audience.


The noise was too great to hold a conversation, and the affirmation was stunning.

Behind us was XXL, campaigning Save our Scene: against a developer taking over and shutting down one of the few remaining gay nightclubs. But why? Find a partner on an app then dance with the straights? That’s a Bear flag.


There were a few scattered Repent! campaigners, but at a corner lots of affirming Christians, some dressed as angels. I photographed that bloke because he was so beautiful.

There were lots of people with A4 signs saying “Trans people to the front”. Watch out for transphobes, alert people, block them from view and don’t engage, as they want attention.

I didn’t like the F-ck terfs signs, though. And one saying “I love my lesbian trans sisters”- I don’t insist on the word lesbian, which angers the terfs so much. Leave it for them. My sexuality needs no label.


I love the collonade and rhe pride flag. London old and new together.

Notes on creating a spiritual experience

My mantra is

I am here.
This is.
I am.

My aim is to sustain mindful, present awareness through a walk I have done hundreds of times.

It is a warm, sunny day. As I walk down the road I notice a pain in the Achilles tendon. Should I go back for a prophylactic ankle support? No, I will not work it too hard. I will take care of my body. It is worthy of care.

I am here. This is. I am.

With the wisdom of my Friend, I seek to combat my own ressentiment. I complained of overheating in exercise, probably exacerbated by oestrogen. She said I heated, not overheated. It just is. Deal with it. Certain parts of the walk are rough underfoot. These are not difficulties, they are just parts of the walk, easily passed with care, more difficult than a metalled road but no real problem. My feeling that difficulties should not exist is the problem. One applies a lesson narrowly then more widely.

I am here. This is. I am.

I am blogging and writing as I walk. I think of what I might say here. I want a record of it. I use words to describe my direct experience: it does not detract, not really.

I am here. This is. I am.

Nettles lean over the path. I might be stung. There is the river.

I am here. This is. I am.

It is beautiful, but more, it simply is. I want to go beyond suddenly noticing beauties and being shocked into awareness of my surroundings, to a steady awareness. It is all beautiful. I am here. This is. As I am trans, often I walk along not really aware of my surroundings, in case someone is reading me and is derisive. All is OK.

I am here. This is. I am.

And then, where the path had been overgrown with nettles and thistles and rough underfoot, a wide swath has been mown down. I did not expect this. I am grateful. It is pure pleasure.

I am here. This is. I am.

The school holiday has not started, but a whole class has been brought here. Some swing on the tyres, some are supervised on the zip wire. One wants to do it by herself. I enjoy their noisily expressed delight.

There is so much sensory experience! There is the sound of the children, and the birds; the warmth of the sun on my skin (with sun tan lotion); the sight of the broad track, the river, butterflies, trees; a feeling-

slight discomfort- I am always nervous- over a feeling that all is well.

I am here. This is. I am.

There are times in shade, even when trees meet overhead, and times when the vista broadens and I am in sunshine.

After about an hour I lose concentration. I am thinking, rather than paying attention to my surroundings. The first time it is about an email I might write, but after that about old resentments, ruminating as I have ruminated before. I use my mantra:

I am here. This is. I am.

Another moral lesson to broaden out: I do not forgive my mother as that would be impertinent or patronising. It would not be treating her as an equal. She always did her best and loved me as she could. Judge not, that ye be not judged. In the same way, the road is near and the traffic noise loud. It is impertinent to resent it as a loud, mechanical noise, or decide to love it as the sound of my civilisation, powerfully pursuing its goals. It simply is.

I am here. This is. I am.

The grass is as soft as the breast of doves,
And shivering sweet to the touch, I think to myself, reaching out. Oops, not those immature seeds. Possibly the poet meant a different species. That leaf is. I pause to look at a red fly, with an orange abdomen. It is a centimetre long, and hovers.

I am here, again! I have gone round the circle, and am back on the tail of my walk, going back up the hill. And it is different, this time. There is some metal barrier-fencing, by the side of the path and I strum on it, enjoying the reverberations. Then I pick up a flattened can to strum on it louder. Then I cut myself on the can.

If Monet had painted the colour of that wheat, I would have thought he was exaggerating.

I am just walking, now. Climbing the hill is an effort. And the practice of holding concentration pleases me. I was there, and aware of it. This is a spiritual experience, and the deliberate attempt to create it is called worship. I stopped several times to contemplate the beauty.

God within

In very real ways, soul, consciousness, love, and the Holy Spirit are one and the same. Each of these point to something that is larger than the individual, shlarger than the individual, shared with God, ubiquitous, and even eternal—and then revealed through us!

Richard Rohr

When I say I am a materialist, I am doubting that. There is something at the heart of each human being, which Quakers call “That of God” or “The inner light” which I believe is in me, because I respect the experience and observations of mystics and their ability to put their experience into words; and also the ability of the Society of Friends to winnow those words, retaining and distilling the best of them. But, as a materialist I see it as part of the evolved human being, part of me, so I doubt its goodness or even its value.

I have no idea what the writer of Isaiah 53:3 meant, but it could be read in this way:

He was despised and rejected by others; [or the ego, or the introjects]
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one who hides his face from us
he was despised, and we held him of no account.

If there is that which is called That of God within me, I do not see it properly because I imagine it to be other than it is, or do not see its worth, or cannot imagine its reality. Yet it is there whether or not I am conscious of it, and my spiritual task is to become conscious of it and cede control to it.

This morning before worship I went for a walk, thinking of it as a walking meditation. And I was looking at the ground underfoot, or in a reverie. And sometimes I was captivated by the beauty around me, on a walk I have done hundreds of times. Once I was brought to a halt. Hockney’s Woldgate Woods helps me to see the variation. Yet it is only a preparation, openness to outward experience as a training for openness to inner experience. Possibly I could remain with it if I walked more slowly.

Then in worship, with the swifts circling overhead, and a red kite, I was aware of the beauty, of the wind and birdsong when I had my eyes closed. I thought of my meeting, how loveable they are, and at the end ministered to myself, that thought of being open to the Light. Possibly I see it now, fleetingly; and I will be led to pray continually.

And it seems to me that if I speak from it my voice is naturally above the break, in my feminine register, and I can only speak from it in that female voice. So I could be my real self, my inner light and more feminine, if only I were brave enough.

 ♥♥♥

And, after, I say it to be it.

I am.

When I say it I speak above the break, and notice my shoulders and neck relax, and I stand taller. I say,

I need no protection. I want a junior counsellor, a different view sometimes, but I am braver than he.