Master/ Slave

I know myself only if you recognise me. Or, as Hegel put it, Self-consciousness exists in itself and for itself, in that, and by the fact that it exists for another self-consciousness; that is to say, it is only by being acknowledged or “recognized”. Humanity is an infinite spiritual unity, and individuals are part of that unity.

Do you know, really know, anyone else? Do you “sublate” them, negating them as other individuals and assimilating them into your understanding of yourself? I have struggled through pure Hegel, and Eric Steinhart’s commentary on it, not understanding. I need to know my own truth before I can judge theirs.

You mentioned this, and I do not know why. Is it because in your radical feminism, man is always destined by Patriarchy to be Master, woman to be slave? Then it would be for me to do the work of knowing myself without your service; and I could never be a woman, because I had never been so enslaved.

My experience is that I did not know myself because I was always looking to others to learn what I ought to be. I knew that was Manliness, which in part I learned from parents, yet I remember cack-handed attempts to fit in with my peers.

(I was delighted to borrow the denim jacket, because I wanted to be “cool”. Dancing in it made me hot and sweaty. “Well, take it off then!” he said, as if that was obvious, not seeing my perplexity.)

There is not enough research on us trans, but some say we have autistic-like characteristics. Which may or may not be like Asperger’s, I read or heard somewhere that the theoretical links between those might be false. Onywye, if autists have “an inability to read the emotional signs of others” (or not) they might like me have a desperation to see from others’ behaviour what is normal behaviour- without being able to relate it to their own emotional states.

If I’m cold I need some heat
If I’m hungry then I eat
I’m not responsible

sang Deep Purple, on their first reunion album in the 1980s. I know because I had that album- see what I mean about trying to be cool, or to understand? And, not? (Does anyone?)

If it rains I stay inside
If I’m scared I run and hide

moving from power to weakness. Is this more profound than I thought?

It seems to me that my mother formed me to be the low status one, deferring to others, at the bottom of the pecking order. Is love, slavery? Christ was crucified, after all, power in powerlessness-

If I want you as a replacement mother, to value me into existence, you will refuse. If I am hurled from “women’s space” into the darkness, rather than weep and gnash my teeth I must value myself. If I depend on another’s perception or valuing I will always be a slave.

Does this help me see you, as paradoxical as I am? I glimpse, but when I try to make sense of it I am grasping at air. Did Hegel do any better? Do you?

Degas Young Spartans exercising

Listening each other into existence

I become real when you see me. I know myself when reflected in you.

We do not know ourselves as others do. Others see things in us which are too frightening for us, so we deny them. Then we cannot deny our characteristics any longer, and get to see them- which can be so painful it feels like being born again.

Yet we have unconscious awareness of those qualities, and when we see them in another and admire or despise that other that is a clue, that this is something in myself.

And I am simply myself, but if you name my quality- my “courage” or “confusion”, whatever- it becomes me, it is a label I must live up to or cannot escape.

David Bowie said, something like I am what the greatest number of people believe me to be. He did his thing, and others named it, understanding or not understanding, some interpreting him to the wider public in a way he might like or not.

Or we can listen and permit, and give the other space to simply be and know themself for the first time. We can listen each other into existence. If you can hear with all the Love you have in your heart, accepting me, then I can tell my story, and hear it too.

Feminist theologian Nelle Morton, quoted at length here: I knew I had been experiencing something I had never experienced before. A complete reversal of the going logic in which someone speaks precisely so that more accurate hearing may take place. This woman was saying, and I had experienced, a depth hearing that takes place before the speaking – a hearing that is far more than acute listening. A hearing engaged in by the whole body that evokes speech –a new speech—a new creation. The woman had been heard to her own speech. The first time Nelle experienced this, the woman began, hesitating and awkward, but became wonderfully coherent. This can be revolutionary, empowering the disinherited.

It appears to belong in woman experience, says Nelle. Not necessarily because women are different from men, but because women share the same oppression by Patriarchy.

Sister let me be your servant (or, Brother, sister, let me serve you/ Brother let me be your servant)
let me be like Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace
to let you be my servant too

That is a song by a man. Is it subtly different? How do we approach equality, suffering together? Nelle says a woman started in patriarchal culture, alien to her nature, and spoke from her conditioning- which is a lie: yet heard, she spoke true. We know and own the words and the images as our own words and our own images that have come out of the depths of our struggle.

Is this a uniquely woman’s experience? Possibly it happens at Alcoholics Anonymous.

In my own moving experience like this, more than a year ago, women and men- and one whose sex and gender is interpreted by others, in a way I might like or not- heard a man, and he confessed his Wrongness- as he had been conditioned to see it- and we told him he was Not Wrong. This is not quite the same, even if he heard our love, as I think he did. Or with trans women at the Sibyls, we spoke together- dialogue, not extended time as in Nelle’s groups- and accepted the impossible, accepted we had to transition.

Patriarchy lies about me too. Is my oppression my way in to women’s experience? Is its difference insurmountable, or can empathy pass through that? Oh, do not reject my Love, for my Love is all I have to give!

Monet, Canoe on the Epte

The Equant point

Ptolemy was wrong. The Sun does not go round the Earth. Why did his view dominate our understanding for over 1300 years? Why was it so hard to change our minds?

Through the mediaeval period, Ptolemy superseded Aristotle’s understanding of celestial motion because he was more accurate. His theory could be used to predict where a planet would appear at future times. He was not only wrong about the Sun going round the Earth, but also about the celestial spheres: the planets were fixed to spheres, made of the etherial fifth element quintessence, and nesting within each other, else, how would they not fall to Earth? He was also wrong in holding to an Aristotelian idea, that because the Heavens are perfect, the planets must move in circles, because the circle is perfect.

The planets do not appear to move in perfect circles. They speed up and slow down, which is not perfect. Ptolemy’s answer was the Equant point. The Earth was not thought to be at the centre of the sphere on which the planet moved, but off-set. The equant point was also not at the centre: it was that place from which the planet would appear to move at a constant rate in its circle.

Ptolemy was right that Mars was closest to Earth, then Jupiter, then Saturn, because he decided that the slower moving planets were further away: but he had no reason for deciding that order.

He was a practical scientist, making new instruments for measuring the precise position of the planets more accurately than before. He was a mathematician, devising the mathematical models which enabled astronomers for centuries after to predict where the planets would appear.

Why would astronomers follow this false scheme? Because predicting the courses of the planets was a complex task. The student would learn the accumulated knowledge of humanity in making those predictions, the practical skills of observing and the mathematics, and so would have Ptolemy’s views inculcated. It was how it was. The observations slowly became more accurate with better instruments, diverging from Ptolemy’s mathematics; and it was important to measure the Heavens, because Easter fell on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal Equinox: we must therefore know when the Equinox is.

Copernicus placed the Sun at the centre, but retained the Greek idea that orbits were circular. Tycho Brahe had the Sun moving round the Earth, but Mercury and Venus moving round the Sun: the spheres, then, could not be, as they would be moving through each other. Johannes Kepler theorised that the planets moved in ellipses rather than circles, and Newton calculated how gravity affected their movement. But Mercury does not fit Newton’s laws, and this could be observed by the 19th century: it was theorised that there was another planet, Vulcan, within the orbit of Mercury whose gravity influenced it. Einstein’s theory explained the orbit of Mercury without need for another planet.

Ptolemy and the muse Astronomia

The Tao of war

Here is Boris, Prince Drubetskoy, the coming man who makes himself indispensable, who marries for money knowing that means he can never have Love, attached to the staff of Bagration. He knows that whatever happens at the battle of Borodino, he will gain for his master: if the battle is lost, it is the fault of Kutusov, Commander in Chief, and if won, it is the achievement of Bagration. So many men anticipate their own gain, of medals and advancement.

Bennigsen despises Kutusov. He sees an elementary error which will lead to slaughter: men at the base of a hill, from which they might be attacked. He orders them to the top of the hill, not thinking that they had been where they were for any reason- such as, to be concealed in ambush.

Solzhenitsyn pictures similar generals in August 1914, despising their commander so marching their own way, each in turn enveloped and annihilated by the Axis. In 1917, the Germans marched into Russia, as fast as they would in peacetime.

Clausewitz- whose concept of “friction” I remember, how any plan is worn away by Events, walks past, in animated conversation in German. War must be extended in space. I cannot put too high a price on this view. Prince Andrei Bolkonsky despises German thinking and analysis. Barclay de Tolly- despite his Scottish ancestry he is seen as a German, as all foreigners are called “German”- thinks things through, and loses. Bolkonsky knows he will die tomorrow. What matters in war is not theory, but spirit. The men who wish most to kill will do it. Barclay retreated at the moment to attack, when the fatherland had been besmirched by the invader, when Russian blood was up. No prisoners should be taken. War is murder, and chivalry makes it bearable, noble, possible; chivalry, the make-up on a pig, permits people to lie it is beautiful.

No-one understands. Napoleon wishes to advance, though that is what destroyed his army; the Russians want to hold him back. After, military historians try to find Causes: but causes are inaccessible to the human mind. The need to seek causes has been put into the soul of man. And the human mind, without grasping in their countlessness and complexity the conditions of phenomena, takes hold of the first, most comprehensible approximation and says, here is the cause. And claim the generals are geniuses, for intending the outcome achieved.

Kutuzov, who sleeps in staff meetings considering battle plans, is reading a French Gothic novel, Les Chevaliers du Cygne. Andrei, without knowing how, trusts him. The more he saw the absence of anything personal in this old man, in whom there seemed to remain only the habit of passions, and instead of intelligence (which groups events and draws conclusions) only the ability to calmly contemplate the course of events, the more calmed he felt over everything being as it had to be. “He won’t invent, won’t undertake anything, but he’ll listen to everything, remember everything, put everything in its place, won’t hinder anything or allow anything harmful. He understands that there is something stronger and more significant than his will- the inevitable course of events… and is able to renounce his personal will.”

Peter von Hess, the Battle of Borodino

Tolstoy and Love

Nikolai Rostov finds Marya Bolkonska, newly bereaved, alone and unsupported. The more generous she is to the muzhiks, the more rebellious they are. Their head-man rebels with them, her steward cannot control them. He goes and shouts at them, though he and one soldier are alone in the crowd and they could overwhelm him. They become obedient, and Princess Marya can escape the French, to Moscow.

She finds herself with tender feelings for him, and his comrades josh him about this plain, old maid- in her late twenties! Her luminous gaze makes one forget the plainness of her face, and she is extremely wealthy. Yet he thinks with guilt of Sonia, his parents’ penniless ward, who has loved him since childhood, and to whom he has promised himself. Dolokhov the duellist loved her, but Nikolai encouraged her love enough to make her reject him: so he beguiles Nikolai into a cheating card game, and wins 42,000 roubles from him. Nikolai’s father pays up, enmeshing him further in debt.

Marya’s brother Andrei loved Nikolai’s sister Natasha. She is not intelligent, but she is sweet. Andrei’s father opposed the match, and sends away for a year, for a German cure. Andrei was wounded at Austerlitz, feared dead, but taken to a French hospital. On the battlefield he looked up at the lofty, infinite sky. Everything is a deception, there is nothing except that sky. That changes a man. Theirs is a pure sweet love; but she falls into the clutches of Elena, countess Bezukhov. Elena’s brother Anatole fancies Natasha, so Elena overawes her with her social prowess, patronises her, adopts her and throws her together with Anatole. His contemptuous awareness of his own superiority arouses a woman’s curiosity, fear, and even love.

She sees him at the opera, and he stares at her. She is delighted that he is captivated. He speaks boldly and simply, and she loves his smile. He stares at her breasts. She would prefer him to look into her eyes, but when he does, she felt with fear and horror that between him and her that barrier of modesty which she had always felt between herself and other men was not there at all.

He wants to elope, and she consents. Dolokhov realises this is foolish: Anatole will run through his few thousand roubles in cash in no time, and is married to a Pole. Anatole has no thought for the future. He takes his carriage to her house at night. But her hostess, a princess and courtier, is wise to him, and thwarts him.

Though they have not kissed, Natasha is shamed forever. Pierre Bolkonsky pities her, and loves her; yet, trapped in his loveless marriage, he decides not to see her, though he is her only moral bulwark. Andrei feels terrible rage, and only desires a duel with Anatole. They meet at the field of Borodino.

And at Austerlitz, Nikolai loved the Sovereign, wanting only to see him, to be seen as a hero and catch his momentary attention, to die for him.

Borovikovsky, Grand Duke Alexander Pavlovitch

Developing gender dysphoria

If transvestic fetishism develops into autogynephilia then gender dysphoria, that would only be a bad thing if being a trans woman is a bad thing. Why on Earth would one ever imagine that? It is good for me. It enables me to be, to express myself, to interact with others, more authentically as me- whether that “me” is “male” or “female”, masculine or feminine, whatever.

That the process was intensely painful does not mean that it was a bad thing. The pain came from guilt and shame, and from unknowing and feeling not in control. Not trusting. But first I like feminine clothes, then I imagine a feminine lifestyle, then I realise my feminine self. All people undergo this growth into being the mature self, a process of being and becoming, like egg, caterpillar, pupa, butterfly. All the stages are necessary, and each stage is the real me.

I recall the pain, and it has echoes now, for I am still in pain. My pain is at the strength of the cultural forces pushing me into the false path of conventional masculinity, which still enrage me, which necessitate the strength of my NO!, my refusal, leaving so little strength left for my yes, my desire.

It involved masturbation, then feeling guilty. Why should sexual release be “bad”? It is a natural physical function. I felt guilt about it, because of the guilt about cross-dressing- which was rejecting the role mapped out for me, the conventional concept of manhood which did not fit me. It seemed to me that society pushed me into the wrong shaped hole, and I felt guilt at resisting. Though I thought Oldham CAB would find a reason to dismiss me, and they supported me: society was more liberal than I had thought.

Was the desire reinforced or fomented by the masturbation? I don’t think it could be instigated by masturbation, and I think presenting female would create gender dysphoria, the intense discomfort of the male in the female role, if it was merely a sexual fantasy. But yeah, theorists disagree, and say of me, s/he would say that, wouldn’t s/he? Sod ’em.

The process involves removal of male physical sex characteristics, and as far as possible creation of female ones. My facial hair was removed, and some have FFS. Does this mean I assert that my femininity means that I am a woman, or that women ought to be “feminine”? No, just that from whatever cause which I do not know, that is what I wanted. Possibly the cause is the Patriarchy, which almost tolerates me if I pretend to be a woman. I don’t know what the world without patriarchy would be like- yet I subvert Patriarchy, by rejecting male privilege.

Oh, come on Roughseas, I know you read this! So many pageviews from Gibraltar, the simplest explanation is they’re you. This tense paradox of freedom and unfreedom, in that being free- authentic- means having no choice- here I am, I can be no other. Say you forgive me! Another paradox: I am myself, and I am in the world.

I have been back with Prof Eric Steinhart, and today learn his pages are designed to be read with die Phänomenologie des Geistes, which I may yet read, though I might prefer an internet summary to an undergraduate module. And a line from Jonathan Franzen The Corrections, that Alfred blamed Enid for his confusion, for witnessing it into existence. I wrestle with this, as I have for the last four years, and take what I may from the thought of others, to push my own forward.

life is like a roller coaster

I am still screaming; but enjoying slightly more.

Transvestic fetishism, autogynephilia, and late onset gender dysphoria

What makes transvestic fetishism a “disorder”? Distress, or harm to others. The paraphilia subworkgroup producing DSM V explain: A paraphilia by itself would not automatically justify or require psychiatric intervention. A paraphilic disorder is a paraphilia that causes distress or impairment to the individual or harm to others…This approach leaves intact the distinction between normative and non-normative sexual behavior, which could be important to researchers, but without automatically labeling non-normative sexual behavior as psychopathological.

According to the DSM, in late onset gender dysphoria the progression is: transvestic fetishism, that is, the subject is aroused by cross-dressing; autogynephilia, arousal by fantasies of self as a woman; gender dysphoria, the desire to live continually as a woman and physically alter the body.

DSM V on transvestic disorder: The presence of autogynephilia increases the likelihood of gender dysphoria in men with transvestic disorder…Some cases of transvestic disorder progress to gender dysphoria. The males in these cases, who may be indistinguishable from others with transvestic disorder in adolescence or early childhood, gradually develop desires to remain in the female role for longer periods and to feminize their anatomy. The development of gender dysphoria is usually accompanied by a (self-reported) reduction or elimination of sexual arousal in association with cross-dressing.

DSM V on gender dysphoria: Adolescents and adults with late-onset gender dysphoria frequently engage in transvestic behavior with sexual excitement. The majority of these individuals are gynephilic or sexually attracted to other posttransition natal males with late-onset gender dysphoria. A substantial percentage of adult males with late-onset gender dysphoria cohabit with or are married to natal females. After gender transition, many self-identify as lesbian…Additional predisposing factors under consideration, [that is, theories without empirical justification] especially in individuals with late-onset gender dysphoria (adolescence, adulthood), include habitual fetishistic transvestism developing into autogynephilia (i.e., sexual arousal associated with the thought or image of oneself as a woman) and other forms of more general social, psychological, or developmental problems.

This is not on line, and I got the quotes from a comment from a trans-exclusionist, here. The DSM V definition of a mental disorder, section on gender dysphoria, introductory section on paraphilic disorders and differential diagnosis on transvestic disorder/GD, are at pp 3-17 of this pdf.

It is a pity Ray Blanchard was involved in this part of DSM V. He claims transvestism develops into autogynephilia, then gender dysphoria, though not in all cases: there are cross-dressers who are quite happy with their gender and their hobby.

He overlooks distress and denial as a causal factor. Gender dysphoria plus denial manifests first as transvestism, then fantasising about being women, and finally gender dysphoria. We try to make men of ourselves. We cannot admit to ourselves that we are not men. But we cannot deny it completely, so first we compulsively cross-dress, with that extreme distress, repeatedly getting rid of the clothes; then we admit the desire to express female; and finally we cannot resist that desire any more, resisting is just too painful. I retain that distress. I want to be normal, and cannot be.

Which of these subjects may be observed? Only the ones who have developed gender dysphoria, generally: which of the fetishistic transvestites would you examine, as most of them will not develop GD. So my own evidence is of disproportionate value here. I self-identified as fetishistic transvestite, in 1992, when I sought aversion therapy. My psychiatrist Dr Yellowlees thought I showed transsexual tendencies, though I would have denied it, my distress (and so “disorder”) being so great. I am the example of the person who might give a history of developing autogynephilia after gender dysphoria was established.

Now read on: if fetishism develops into gender dysphoria, that is beautiful.

George Elgar Hicks, seated woman in white dress

Second guessing

Stillness. Presence.

The light glinting on the polished wood of the chair opposite is beautiful. The music is not bad. What do you feel?

What one ought to or might feel gets in the way of perceiving what one does; and one can feel contradictory things. I feel some anxiety, looking round when the door opens. I am concerned about my toe, which is infected

are you squeamish about such things? I can discuss this with perfect ease, even when eating. Actually eating at a sewage farm would nauseate me, I imagine, but talking of it does not. Anyway, my toe was infected before, and it had a small cut, then redness by the nail, then a pus spot

are you interested in such things? I hope in what I can say about it.

I go to the pharmacist. Would she have a look at this?As I wait I consider the lights in the roof, and the colours of the displays: Presence. What do I feel? Nausea, because of the toe.

When I take my sock off, the redness is considerably worse. I went to get an excuse to get antimicrobials, but really want them now. She could sell me something to draw out the pus, but I want to kill it. I phone the surgery immediately, and get to see the nurse. Strange, I procrastinate everything, but not this: it has touched me.

Now, two days later, I am slightly nauseous from the antibiotics. The instruction was to take them an hour before food or two hours after, four a day, which would be inconvenient, but does not seem to matter. The swelling is much reduced, and I think, was I premature in getting the antibiotics, which will adversely affect gut flora?

What do you feel? Still some anxiety. There is no point in being anxious about what one has done. Second guessing is pointless. But it is an explanation for the anxiety, which will do for now.

Possibly non-specific anxiety attaches itself to circumstance. I remain anxious, no matter how much I tell myself that is uncalled-for.

Pyotr Bezukov, taken prisoner by the retreating French army, learned, not with his mind, but with his whole being, that man is created for happiness, that happiness is within him, in the satisfying of natural human needs, and that all unhappiness comes not from lack, but from superfluity; but now, in these last three weeks of the march, he had learned a new and more comforting truth- that there is nothing frightening in the world. As there is no situation in the world in which a man can be happy and perfectly free, so there is no situation in which he can be perfectly unhappy and unfree. The limit to suffering and the limit to freedom are very close- that when he used to put on his tight ballroom shoes, he suffered just as much as now, when he walked barefoot and his feet were covered with sores.

Yet he weeps in relief when the partisans rescue him.

Sorry about the non-inclusive language. Possibly, Tolstoy could only speak for men. Another cup of chocolate- why not?

Renoir, la tasse de chocolat

A table

Imagine coming into this café if you had never seen a table before. You see these strange wooden structures, and might not even see them properly, but walk into them, as the colour is so similar to the floor. Then someone explains you can sit on the chairs- no, not like that, like this- you lean your back against there-

you would be like a child, still learning to see

and you drink out of vessels, but place them on the floor, and so the idea of putting them on “tables” is strange to you, so according to personality you say, but that’s ridiculous, why would you want anything to put a cup on, what is wrong with the floor?

or, How wonderful! Such ease of access!

or, say nothing at all, but be shocked or pleased; but even if able to articulate pleasure, you would still have more to learn about tables. For example, there are things you put on the floor, rather than a table, such as shoes, because shoes are dirty from walking outside; and you would put food on a plate rather than directly on the table.

And you might be amazed- happily or angrily- at the variety of tables, their shapes, the different number of legs- and then amazed again when a leaf was folded out or a wing pulled out. And not always recognise a table- I know of something very like a table which has a ring of small figures attached to it, and a sign saying “Please do not put mugs or cups on the sculpture”- for even people familiar with tables and sculptures, or works of art, might mistake it

The French have the same word, but my English ear and throat could not catch or pronounce it properly, and perhaps the connotations, metaphors and ideas round the word are different. I have not googled it, but would they talk of a “table mountain” and if not would they understand if you did?

In English, the difference between a “hill” and a “mountain” is a precise height above sea level in feet, so similar French concepts will not be precisely the same. In the centre of a continent the same height above sea level might be a lake-bed.

So much is normal! Or we are like the frogs not leaping out of water slowly warmed to boiling. Or we see what we can do: the anger of the populace is firmly diverted from TTIP, which will prevent any further legal protections of consumers, employees or the environment in the name of profit, and will ensure the privatisation of all public services, and towards the EU. Newspapers proclaim that David Cameron’s deal with the EU is dreadful, and we would be better out of it- without saying why. Something to do with straight bananas, perhaps, or being able to be racist, or keeping out foreigners which would be more difficult outside the EU- or is not desired, particularly, by those who would influence people against the EU.

Renoir, la tasse de chocolat

The political is personal

“Real tipping point stuff!” exulted my facebook friend. A cis friend emailed it to me. We have won the argument: the radfems trying to exclude us have lost, and here is The Independent on Sunday: When it comes to transgender rights, there’s nothing feminist about being a bigot. I loved her argument that if you force trans men into women’s toilets, That means that people who look like blokes, and therefore blokes, can enter women’s changing rooms. Does that make it less likely or more likely that rapists are going to be in women’s spaces? Most commenters are hostile, one accusing Katy Guest of autogynephilia, as if no cis woman would say this. I would have heard of her if she were trans.

There are a small number of women very angry that men get into women’s space. “Saying you’re a woman does not make you a woman,” they argue, with every appearance of rationality, and the liberal majority say, so what? Or, What harm do trans do?

I am pleased; yet it matters less to me that a trans man trounces a radfem on Channel 4 News than that my friend says I am a man, and evinces horror that her friend’s child might transition, believing that is always wrong, for everybody.

The personal is political is a feminist slogan from the 1960s: personal matters such as access to health care are influenced by politicians, so women should be politically active to make their personal lives better. I turn it round: there is this live political issue with all these cis people engaged discussing who or what I am, which affects me personally, and what matters to me is that H is revolted, or J is accepting: how my own personal relationships are affected. I cycled into Marsley for provisions, and chatted to the woman on the checkout in Tesco, briefly, about the background music- sweet dreams are made of this- and the woman in the butcher’s about nothing at all. Whatever they think of trans as a political issue, both were polite and friendly, and that is what I want.

This might fit with feminist care ethics. Rebarbative as it might be to some feminists that women might think differently from men, personal and concrete situations matter far more to me than universal, abstract principles, and those theorists at least thought this was characteristic of women. Not all women, or no men, and of course I can think abstractly; yet I have these tendencies, which are different and not inferior.

George Elgar Hicks, A summer bouquet