Antisemitism and transmisogyny

Vocal prejudice tends to be right-wing, with the exception of prejudice against trans women and Jews. Many people who would think of themselves as left-wing, and hold some left-wing opinions, are happy to speak their prejudice against both; so trans women can learn from Jews about seeing where prejudice lies. People on the Left can be sexist and racist, of course, paying less attention or respect to women and people of colour, but tend not to express racist and sexist views. When they express antisemitic or transmisogynist views they are working in the interests of the extreme right, dividing the Left and chasing mirages.

So it is worth reading Understanding Antisemitism by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (click for pdf) which starts with a picture of Muslims in solidarity with praying Jews, and ends with a picture of Jews in solidarity with Muslims at an “Iftar in the streets” after Trump’s Muslim ban. The Right seeks to divide people, possibly because they are incapable of understanding life without out-groups; solidarity is our answer. That is why I want to learn about antisemitism, and stand against it.

I have seen antisemitism shared by a Labour member, against rich elites exploiting workers, but painting those elites as Jewish rather than merely rich. There are rich Jews- in 2015, 11.6% of the world’s billionaires were Jews, and 1.7% of millionaires- a bigger proportion than of the population as a whole, but a small proportion of the very wealthy. More than half the world’s millionaires identified as Christian.

Aurora Levins Morales skewers this: Racism is like a millstone, a crushing weight that relentlessly presses down on people intended to be a permanent underclass. Its purpose is to press profit from us, right to the edge of extermination and beyond. The oppression of Jews is a conjuring trick, a pressure valve, a shunt that redirects the rage of working people away from the 1%, a hidden mechanism, a set up that works through misdirection, that uses privilege to hide the gears.

Unlike racism, at least some of its targets must be seen to prosper, must be well paid and highly visible. The goal is not to crush us, it’s to have us available for crushing.

By redirecting rage against oppressors onto Jews, the rich escape democratic oversight and proper taxation. The tactic of the Right is to divide us. In the same way, some trans people are prominent, such as Caitlyn Jenner, and thereby a focus for hatred of trans women, which is then generalised. We could be allies working on genuine feminist concerns, and instead we are sniping at each other. Caitlyn is not celebrated because she is Trans, but because she is a former athlete and connected to the Kardashian family- she is a celebrity. It is not quite the same: prominent trans people tend to be writers, speakers, actors, celebrities, and George Soros is a billionaire funding progressive causes such as the People’s Vote campaign in the UK, but both are privileged and targeted.

I saw a post writing about women murdered by partners or former partners, with legitimate emotion, then phobically turning that emotion on trans women: while men kill women that they know at the rate of over 2 a week, all the energies of the women, like me, who stand up for these women and fight for these women are being focused on fighting against men for the right to define womanhood and all that entails. It would be legitimate rage against feminist energy being diverted from true feminist concerns to an unimportant matter; but rather her rage is against trans women.

Legitimate criticism may shade over into prejudice and phobia. We should criticise violence by trans women, but it should not be over emphasised. Tara Wolf committed an assault, but it was not newsworthy. JFREJ say We must criticize Jews who support the oppression of Palestinians on the same terms and by the same standards that we hold for all oppressors the world over — we are enraged because of what they do, not by who they are.

JFREJ say Jews fear that the State of Israel is all that stands between them and a new Shoah, but eschew the argument that claims of rights for Palestinians which would make the State of Israel no longer Jewish are antisemitic. I disagree. I consider that Jews born in Israel have created a right to stay in a Jewish state. The existence of Israel gives a measure of protection to Jews, who are subject to prejudice and have been for millennia. And trans women are safer being treated as women, rather than if we were tolerated dressing as we do but expected to be treated as men.

Their account of internalised antisemitism may help understand internalised transphobia. Many trans women try to make men of ourselves before transitioning, and still fear we should be manly or that our femininity is weakness. But internalised phobia does not manifest itself in the same way in all trans women. JFREJ reports that even where Jews are safe, such as financially secure Jews in American cities, they can be aware of the history of antisemitism and so that safety feels precarious. Even when mostly safe, we are continually made aware of transphobic incidents and transphobia in the media. They call on Jews to work against white privilege, and trans women should be feminist.

Being stuck

Sally apologises for the room, because it has toys in it. I find them fascinating. There’s a yard long cuddly crocodile, with soft-fabric nostrils that will take more than a phalanx of my finger. Who could resist picking the nose of a cuddly toy? Not me, I am afraid. I can imagine it alive, and then ignore it; I notice it’s on its back over my knee, which might break its spine and be terrible treatment, then I tickle its tummy and imagine it curling its head up to make eye contact, enjoying the attention. I put it down, as the contact is not real, and keep picking it up again. A dog would be too much responsibility. But it’s a killing machine, able to spring at tremendous speed and acceleration over a distance of a few yards, able to hide under water as it approaches its prey.

There’s also a garage, a dolls house and a police station. I notice the Black doll, like a bigger lego figure, which is frumpy with an uncool hairstyle. I am suspicious, but the white doll is frumpy too, and having Black is a more accurate picture of society. Where there is the possibility of discrimination, we should be careful. There’s a police station with a helicopter pad on the roof and, amazingly, a legolike figure with a rifle. That is more shocking than toy soldiers because soldiers fight wars far away, and this police officer is in the community- and because I am used to toy soldiers. Or toy soldiers express wrath and action, and a police marksman is clinical.

I am in not-quite-sardonic mode, flatness of affect concealing terror and misery in a way a psychotherapist called my powerful defence mechanism twenty years ago. I am going round in circles. Now I am aware that I am doing it, and it is indeed a good defence mechanism, better than bursting into tears. So it felt at the time that I was completely stuck, and looking back trying to find something positive in the experience I say I am aware of it. And, underneath it, the terror.

I am treating my life as an intellectual problem- how to change myself, how to fit in, how to be- when there is no intellectual solution. I want attention, and I want to hide away. My distress is like an overexposed photograph: as it is all overwhelming, I cannot work on either the easiest or the most pressing matters as I cannot distinguish them. My feelings overwhelm me whether I suppress or acknowledge them. And all of this I wrestled with years ago, and am still stuck in it. Though I can articulate the issues more easily.

I like to feel useful, and I like small discrete tasks which produce this sensation instantaneously. So, not a long term project, but, say, putting the shelf right last week. It’s my judgment, and it appears objective to me, though I think to myself that no-one else would think it important at all. Just like smoothing out a ruck in a rug with a counsellor twenty years ago, which pleased me intensely. All this seems to fit early childhood patterns. This counselling is useless. I don’t know what else to try.

It’s not my fault and I don’t know what to do about it and I am the one who must. This counselling service appears completely useless to me. Watching a film on telly I hear the line You embrace the suck, you move the fuck forward stated by a man who had his legs blown off, and I write it down earnestly. Half way through this article I see the heading 9 ways childhood emotional neglect harms highly sensitive people and I think, oh fuck off, tell me what I can do about it! This one is better.

I have been sharing pictures by Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson, and now find Anne was a man.

Stonewall and gender diversity

Are there really 600,000 trans people in the UK? That would be nearly 1% of the population. Most of that half million would never consider transition, and perhaps many of them would not even cross-dress. They would include cross-dreamers, who fantasise but do not necessarily act out their fantasies, and people who do not fit gender norms but are adamant they are of their birth sex. Some would not think of themselves as trans, and may have different ideas of what trans is- even before you ask whether non-binary people are trans.

My own figure is 40,000 people who have transitioned or are strongly likely to. But that’s a different number from those who are gender diverse.

I noticed with mentally ill people in the CAB that they had ordinary human characteristics, slightly exaggerated. Most people will have gone out then wondered if they have locked their front door that morning, but for some people it becomes a problem. Different people have more or less rigid understandings of gender stereotypes, comply with them more or less, and are more or less distressed about this. It’s not a binary, either fitting gender norms or not fitting them, but a matter of degree. Other aspects of character and personality, and family and community situation, will affect whether the person decides to transition, or not, and how happy they are with their decision.

And that’s fine. Gender diverse AMAB people who are certain they are men are still gender diverse. A lot of homophobia is around how gay men are not seen as manly. A gay man told me “feminine” characteristics were tolerated in gay men, perhaps they are even expected, and most of them do not think they are women. Whether same sex attraction is on a spectrum too, and the culture makes people decide they are gay or straight- well, it’s possible. Whether I am gynephile because of relatively low attraction to men together with strong inhibitions against such attraction- there is no way I could answer that.

Stonewall are confusing two things, gender diversity and gender transition. Gender diversity can cause problems for someone, either from internal suppression or from bullying, and gender transition is one partial solution to those problems. The LGBT Foundation in Manchester defines trans as “anyone who identifies with a gender which is different from the one which they were assigned at birth”- so there are more than two genders- which means that anyone who says they are trans, are. It’s something a lot of people would feel wary of admitting, or ashamed of, so they are safe enough from people who are not entitled accessing their services. But I can imagine someone suffering with gender dysphoria who is terrified of transition, so insists they are a male cross-dresser, who by that definition would exclude themselves.

The gender recognition reform proposal makes the public discussion about transition, . I don’t think there is any point in a man declaring s/he is a woman if they are not going to “live in the acquired gender”- make some stab at transition. It’s unclear what this could mean, whether skirts high heels and makeup, or jeans and t-shirt, male pattern baldness with a bit of length at the back with no attempt to modify the voice to sound female. Cis women are often unfeminine. Do you look like a woman? If your face is particularly masculine, do you make an attempt to look like a woman? For the law in England and Wales, there is no suggestion that there could be more than two genders.

Transition is difficult. 600,000 people in the UK are not going to transition. Yet the rest of Stonewall’s “The truth about trans” page describes trans people as if we are all transitioning or transitioned. This terrifies transsexual separatists- a terf has just shared to a Labour party page another blog post suggesting that there are true TSs, who knew they were the other sex from a young age, and sought surgery “after lengthy physical and psychological assessment”. That excludes the 40% of people going to the clinics who do not want genital surgery, and human rights law says genital surgery should not be necessary for gender recognition. Possibly all the trans women monstered in the Times or the Daily Mail in their campaign against us fit that definition.

Stonewall should stand up for all gender diverse people, and then accept that we are not all trans, that transition is not right for all of us, that we do not even want transition, but should be able to express contrary to gender stereotypes. Those internal inhibitions need loosening. The bullying needs to stop. But not every gender diverse man will transition to permanently presenting as a woman, and those who don’t will not want legal gender recognition as women.

Jennifer James

Jennifer James took seven thousand pounds entrusted to her for a court action in others’ interests, and applied it to her personal debts. When found out she said, “I know it was less than ideal promise not to borrow again. Desperate times call for desperate measures.” (Update 60). Later, she said (Update 68) “I now get that this was more serious than I thought. I understand I was trite about it. I have since heard that some people were stressed and worried about it and that is entirely my fault. At the end of last week I got very stressed by a creditor’s actions and I panicked and made a bad decision. That’s not an excuse that’s an explanation.”

Then she wrote, I feel bad because you all put your trust in me and I fucked up. I also know that for a few loudmouths I can do nothing right and, to be honest, that’s a ‘you’ problem not a ‘me’ problem. But carry on, whatever… Well. Oddly enough, I agree with her here. Yes, she fouled up. And, that does not mean she should never be trusted again, or that what she has to say should be ignored. In the well-worn phrase, more used by Tories than Labour, I would rather have her in the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in. I understand that people who object to her suing the Labour party may crow at this evidence of her untrustworthiness; and trans people, as she is suing to prevent trans women getting on all-women shortlists, but generally I am against trump cards, the idea that one mistake shows someone need not be listened to ever again, or one argument is valueless. Trump cards are a way of stopping thinking.

James does not show great self-understanding. She complains she has been expelled from the Labour Party, and shows some of the evidence used against her. She has made slurs against the Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth, which are not just antisemitic but reek of conspiracy-theory: “Ruth Smeeth is literally working hand in hand with Right Wing Power that is her purpose: that’s why she was GIVEN her position.” And she has said pretty horrible things about trans people, probably more than she has reproduced here.

The real reason why she should be opposed by anyone on the Left is that she proposes to sue the Labour party about trans women, rather than to pursue her goals through democratic party channels, as if trans women were the only important political issue rather than unseating the Tory government, whose risking no-deal Brexit is the most harmful single Tory act against the population of the UK since the General Strike of 1926. With NHS privatisation, or benefit cuts, trans rights should not weigh on the scale. Now is the time for all good folks to come to the aid of the Party (Google tells me that was a learn-to-type exercise, rather than a quote from Trotsky).

Many of these donations of £10 or so may come from individual women on the Left of politics in the UK, but many are anonymous. I am sure Robert Mercer or American hard-right organisations would like to cause trouble on the Left, using this issue. As I type, £29,750 of £40,000 has been raised, but only £100 in the last five days.

Having shown herself untrustworthy, James should find someone else to manage the fundraiser. Who is to say she will not take more money out? Was it just luck that it was repaid the same day? Better still, she should shut it down. No political issue is worth weakening the Labour Party right now, with the threat to the country from Tory power.

Using a crime

Katie Dolotowski ambushed a ten year old girl coming out of a toilet cubicle. She pushed her back into the cubicle, saying a man outside would kill her mother. However the girl punched her in the face, stomach and groin and ran outside.

This is chaotic and wicked behaviour. The intent was a sex crime: Dolotowski told her intended victim to remove her trousers. I completely understand the mother being angry that Dolotowski was released into supported accommodation and ordered to work in the community. However I also understand the sheriff court sentence, and the sheriff has had reports to justify it. She has been in care since she was three, and has mental health problems. Not everyone with mental health problems who has been in care commits sex crimes, the mother pointed out, but as she is 18 the sheriff may believe some rehabilitation is possible in supported accommodation which would not be possible in an adult prison. Dolotowski had just come out of a young offenders’ institution. The offence took place in March last year, so possibly some time in the YOI was spent remanded in custody, which would be taken into account in sentencing.

The intent was a serious crime, and Dolotowski has culpability for that, but sentencing also takes into account the harm done, even though the harm was less because of the courage of the child rather than any action of the panel. Being generally against imprisonment and for rehabilitation, I am not going to be more or less liberal just because the criminal is trans.

Most sexual assaults go unreported in the press, but there was some excuse for the Dundee Courier, a nearby regional paper, reporting the sentencing on 1 February. The bravery of the child and the anger of the mother made it newsworthy, for a regional paper.

There was no excuse, however, for the Times reporting it on 6 February. Eleven million adults in the UK are survivors of contact and non-contact sexual abuse. The Times reported it because, while she was given her correct name in court, Katie Dolokowski had been in a YOI for boys. She is trans. The Times reported a “gender critical” campaign group which has had a twitter account for six months, and a website marked “©2019”, complaining about the offence. Had they done a vox-pop, they could have quoted someone equally notable, though perhaps only anti-trans campaigners would think the accused’s trans status was relevant.

Most people who are not Trump supporters would see that the fact that a US citizen died in a car accident with an immigrant, even an illegal immigrant, does not mean that immigration is bad. Yet The Times believes they can use this ridiculous yet disgusting crime against all trans people, or they would see it is not newsworthy, six days later, in a national newspaper.

It is not newsworthy, unless you want to campaign against trans people. Restricting the rights of trans people will not reduce the crime against women and girls in Scotland or elsewhere. The Times wants to tar all of us with the same brush, and incite hatred against us.

A similar game was played by the Daily Star, whose website does not carry its admission that it had no basis for its story that Ian Huntley, who murdered two young girls from sexual motives, was trans. It had claimed Ian Huntley had got a blonde wig and wanted fellow inmates to call him Nicola. “Ian Huntley would like to make it clear that he does not own a wig and has never asked to be known by any name other than his own”. Here’s a tweet saying that even though Huntley is not trans, people should still fear trans people as sex criminals. Pink News quotes tweets using Huntley to inflame fear against trans women. No, we should judge sex criminals, whether they be cis, trans or Scottish.

Anger, pain, and Ministry

The Spirit speaks in meeting through human beings, and our individuality affects the message like the wood or metal of a flute or trombone affects music. It is a paradox: self-abnegation of the petty self or ego, self-actualisation of the true self created in the image of God. I am most fully myself when giving true ministry.

The self I have found in Meeting is filled with paradoxes. I feared meditation, because I fear I will encounter my pain, and when I brought myself to it I felt the pain fully and it did not matter. Possibly it is that life is painful. I am always confused, always wanting, and acceptance is a constant discipline not a single act. And my harsh judgment of myself makes a setback into a failure, a mistake into proof of idiocy, and my sensitivity heightens my own pain, and I have habitually suppressed my pain in order to function, and sometimes it just bursts out of me. I feel, strongly; I try to suppress; so when I start to weep it is the way my pain communicates to my conscious self that it is so strong. If I accepted it I might hold it within.

Anger and pain are close. Anger is sad’s bodyguard, I read on facebook: but pain, expressed, seeks help, and anger demands a solution, often a particular solution, immediately. Yet anger can be an expression of pain, where the pain is too great and confusing, and it bursts out, and is a more acceptable response from a man, inculcated into us in childhood. Big boys don’t cry. Though in competitive situations, nor should women.

What of Quakers? I feel it is incumbent on us to process our pain and anger before speaking them in Meeting. Sometimes, I just can’t. I think it better to express pain in Meeting than to suppress it, where our conflicts are brushed under the carpet, but both are failures of the Quaker process.

That suppression. I realised that I feared my anger, pain and fear, and in fear tried to suppress them. But that gives energy to the feeling. I suppress, and it seeks to burst out, and it becomes more unbearable, more painful. And now I fear my feelings less. My journey over the last two years in Quaker meeting has been towards openness and acceptance. It is hard to explain, and I am not sure I understand it. I found in Meeting in Wellingborough I would, several times each meeting, withdraw into myself. I would cross my arms and legs and curl myself up as small as possible, head bowed, just self-protecting, against- I don’t know what, the world and my experience, or the pain I felt because of it. All of that, I think. And then, I would open out again. I would be open to feeling and sensation, and even perhaps being moved by the Spirit. My feelings would be too much, I would curl up and self-protect, and then the feeling would pass and I would open again.

Over the last year, I felt no need to curl up in this way. Instead, I would feel the pain. I was more or less silent in the silent meeting. I would gasp, or sigh, or start to rock. I have noticed others’ hands tense slightly, clasped in their lap, and my whole body would go rigid. I conceived of it as a discipline, bringing myself closer to acceptance and clear perception of my world. I felt it was a process of healing. I was growing stronger. That curling up was a trauma-response, and I needed the trauma response less. Then, before the 6th January business meeting I was sitting in the corner looking at Heather two yards away, and I found myself curling up again.

 ♥♥♥

I was enraged at Heather- I don’t think that is too strong a word- because of her article that I had only just seen. It was for a hard-right website, funded by the Koch brothers, who are American oil billionaires who give vast amounts of money to hard-right causes. It is ludicrous. She complained that trans rights restrict free speech, but lots of platforms will say Trans is Bad- the Times, the Daily Mail, Standpoint, the Spectator, the Guardian, to name a few. I agree with Julie Bindel, to whom Heather once offered to introduce me, that feminists should not associate with the hard-right. I agree with the hard-right calculation, that making life more difficult for trans people will not result in people being openly gender non-conforming without transition, but rather in gender stereotypes being more oppressive and more enforced.

I emailed that website, copy to Heather, complaining that her statement ‘trans women’ (as opposed to transsexuals) have penises was false. Many transsexuals have a penis, as they have not yet had the operation. Most of us self-identify as trans women, even post-op, objecting to the use of “transsexual” as a noun. Much of the scaremongering about trans people is around penises. Having a penis does not make a trans woman or a trans girl a threat. Heather responded by emailing to say our friendship was at an end.

I first met Heather four years ago when I saw her across a crowded Meeting room. I thought, Wow. We have gone out for a drink together fairly regularly since, and I have made periodic declarations of love which have been kindly rebuffed. In the autumn I had thought that I would not invite her again. Her campaigning against trans rights, and my disagreement with her, had come between us.

In the meeting for worship before business meeting I was thinking of what can be said in a meeting, in love. When gender came up in the business meeting, following up on Heather’s recognised Concern, I was expostulating. This is who I am. The elder wanted me to sit down. The clerk wanted to hear what I had to say. His minute said, “We have heard-” clerkly code for one person said, when it is not that which we unite behind.

I have not processed my hurt. It is an open wound. I wanted the operation more than anything else in the world, and now I regret it. Two women have said to me, this bluntly, “I could find a man like you attractive, but- no penis!” So fearmongering about penises really gets to me.

My anger deserves your sympathy. Trans women are almost all completely harmless, often quite badly hurt. There is a campaign to drive us out of the women’s spaces where we have been for decades, without harming anyone, on the pretext of gender recognition reform. Gender recognition reform will mean no more trans women in women’s spaces any more than a change to blue passports will mean more foreign travel. The campaign fearmongers, pretending we are dangerous. Of course I am angry.

 ♥♥♥

I came to Quakers in April 2001, and joined in February 2002. I am afraid I have always been the Needy Friend. I am trans. I had a difficult childhood. I had a difficult time at work, and have been unemployed since March 2011. My confidence is very low, and my ability to accept who I am and how the world is is limited. I like to think I am healing, making spiritual progress, but sometimes it seems I am just going round in circles. I am isolated, and the Labour Party and the Quaker meeting are my only social outlet, apart from things like facebook.

Quakers are nice people, and like to help. In Central Manchester meeting once, shortly after I started going there, an Evangelical came in and took advantage of the ability to stand and speak into our silence to preach a long sermon about Biblical inerrancy or suchlike Evangelical stuff. I interrupted, got upset, and went out to the library with two people holding me as I raged and wept. Someone who listens to my woes gains something from the encounter, a feeling of having done something worthwhile. That places obligations on the needy person, me, not to exploit the good will of my Friends.

Clare, who supported me in Manchester, saw my transition male to female from a year before changing my name formally to a year after, and said “You have climbed a mountain”. I had. Transition is hard to do. Her Testimony, and her husband’s, came out last year. She gave me a lot of support.

I came to Wellingborough meeting again terribly hurt. Well, I am sensitive. L. again gave me a great deal of support, with weekly piano duet sessions for months. I am proud of what I achieved as AM clerk, giving space for the Spirit to move us- I was contributing too- but I took a lot of support. There were tensions in the meeting, such as, there was one regularly-worshipping member with whom I only had one conversation. I approached her in my capacity as member of AM nominations committee, and got no farther than saying “Would you consider” before she said “NO!” A small meeting should be closer than that.

I demanded more support than the meeting could well give, especially after someone moved to the South-west. L. organised my 50th birthday celebration. I saw her outside meeting often. Twice during Meeting (with a year interval between them) I stood and shared my desolate misery, swearing at the horror of it. Too much. I sensitised people to myself. You can’t centre down easily if you are worrying what Abigail will do next. I was told to leave Wellingborough meeting after a man who used the homelessness service came into the meeting house just before coffee, and became abusive and physically threatening when I asked him to leave. I was not going to back down. It is a tragedy that the meeting could give no more support at the moment that I was most entitled to it. I could not get beyond that for over a year- I would have been entitled to support in that moment, but for the history leading up to it.

So I went to Kettering. I am not the only vulnerable, fragile or hurt individual in any meeting, and all of us are vulnerable in particular ways. I am better able to hold my own hurt now, but not perhaps when the meeting considers Heather has a properly Quaker “concern” about “freedom of speech” rather than being the dupe and tool of right-wingers, and for the “care of children”, though that means denying them the care they seek, and denying that they can know themselves. Generally, trans people know who we are and what we want. Some revert, but generally we are happier and more centred when we can express our true selves, and often that means hormones and surgery, however much that surgery may revolt some people.

I went to the Inclusion weekend at Woodbrooke, and after I was shouting angrily at Heather during the Sunday morning worship I have been told not to attend meeting in my Area. My heart sank a week before when I learned she was going. In worship, she stood and rather than giving ministry stated she was an expert. She stated, falsely, that gender recognition reform, “self-ID”, will affect women’s rights, and that there is no biological basis for trans, which is irrelevant, as trans people exist. I stood to say worship had ended at the point she stood up, but I was angry.

I am writing this because one wise and well-regarded Friend told me he is “appalled at the injustice” of me being excluded. It is not quite that simple. Another said he “pray[s] love and truth will prevail”, at which I thought, well, that would be me completely screwed. (Joking.) I think love and truth will; and it may take some time.

 ♥♥♥

I have also been told not to represent the AM, which may also be a good thing. I love prolonged periods with Quakers. Possibly they get me over-excited, like a child on a sugar rush. I have not mastered Quakerly reserve, yet I dare to hope I contribute. Sometimes, if I try to assess intellectually, or when my words come particularly close to my own vulnerabilities, I doubt the value of what I say, but I feel I get it right most of the time. I liked what I said at YM, and mention Deborah Rowlands hugging me as I left more to convince myself that it had value than to convince you. I have been twice to the Quaker Life Rep Council, and think I contributed there, too, though too many of us stood in the final Meeting for Worship.

If ministry speaks to people it will have an effect, and if not it will be forgotten, unless it is spectacularly bad, sufficient to disrupt worship. I speak from my heart, from my love, my creativity and my desire for good, apart from those two times in Wellingborough when I spoke from my misery and negativity and disrupted worship. Yet I think “Where I am at the moment” ministry, if not overdone, helps bring a meeting together, to know each other in the things that are eternal and the things that are quotidian. One that has been much on my mind since it was given in July was Heather’s. As I remember it she spoke of how as a child she had wanted to be confirmed into the Church of England, and had gone to confirmation classes. In part she wanted the white first communion dress.  She was not confirmed, because her commitment to truth prevented her from believing some of the things that church demanded she believe. And now she felt she may be forced out of the Society of Friends, because of her commitment to Truth. My heart went out to her, even though I knew what she thought of as the falsehood driving her out was the Society’s acceptance of trans people and our transitions.

I may have made this impossible, but I would still like to be part of a Quaker decision making process on trans and gender issues. I see people in favour of trans rights in the society, and people with a strongly gender-critical view (they call the term “trans-excluding radical feminist” a slur) and it seems to me that the pain of the gender non-conforming or gender critical, and the gender dysphoria of the trans people, is the same pain at gender stereotypes blocking us from being ourselves. So Quakers should actively oppose gender stereotypes as part of our testimony to Equality, and help us see each others’ pain. The tragedy is that we are in conflict, as if others’ way of subverting the stereotypes somehow invalidates our own. If only we could see, we would be on the same side.

I am forbidden to attend Quaker meetings at the moment, yet I hope the video designed to make us attractive to enquirers, and featuring me, will remain on the website. I was not sure the outreach leaflets should all feature the same four people, because I thought I was quite weak on Quaker work, but I stand by what I wrote:

My work in the world, my witness to others, is learning to know and accept myself as God made me, moving from suppressing my feelings to owning them… I know the truth is setting me free.

So I will carry on with that, and perhaps be readmitted at some point. Coming across this Karl Barth quote this week seems a synchronicity- It is not that you have been called to bear the suffering of the present time, it is that you have been idiots. Yet contrary to some evidence I feel that this organism, this creature, conscious and unconscious, soul and body, has value. I am a Quaker; and at the moment I have irked too many people.

If you have got this far: this is what I want of Quakers. Gender stereotypes do not fit people. They are an engine of oppression. Therefore the Quaker testimony to Equality should lead us to oppose the stereotypes, and search out what in ourselves seeks to enforce them on others. And we should trust and support each person to oppose those stereotypes and deal with them in their own way, including by transition.

Using feelings

I was in a constricted grey corridor, with regular doors off it. I tried a door, and found overwhelming light and colour, so much that I could not make sense of it, so stayed in the corridor- but as I remained, the corridor grew darker and more constricting.

I thought the vision was about my retreat from the world, and now see it as my retreat from myself. I will not feel my feelings, they are too overwhelming. So I am stuck in the corridor, more and more constricted.

I have suffered so much pain and loss and rejection that I live in it. All that thwarted desire, all the bewilderment and lack of understanding, and always the critical voices berating me for failure. I need to see the detail in that overwhelming colour and light of my feelings, and that means paying attention to them as I pay attention to an art work, sitting with it, seeing it, noticing it.

What do I want, now?
What is possible, now?
What might I do, now?
What do I feel about that?

So many doors closed!

Richard Rohr today posted that Christ is, for each of us, our deepest and best and most naked self, and how could I believe that? I want ridiculous things, do not want what I ought to want, and as the Anglicans put it there is no health in me. And I flail about uselessly, and then give up.

Rohr shares a painting by Tintoretto of the Crucifixion, where we see Christ tortured and distorted, bearing the pain of our sin, as my soul bears the pain of my denial of it.

And the Tintoretto crucifixion which I found first shows a different Christ, Christ as the light of the world, shining from the cross.

Around him there is the tumult of the World, and for a moment it pauses, as people see the light of Christ.

The way to my true self which may or may not have any value but is at least me is through the feelings I have suppressed or distorted. There comes a time to lay down my past, which I see as mistakes, wrongdoing, stupidity, failure, and see what is around me, now. What is possible, now. Not a lot, perhaps, but not nothing at all.

A low place

I just don’t know how it’s got this bad. I am bamboozled.

The analogy of a single cell came to mind. Chemical reactions on its membrane can show it that one direction is more conducive to its flourishing than the opposite direction, and it has cilia which can move it in that direction, though they will not save it from being swallowed as by-catch when a fish eats another. I feel my cilia are just waving me randomly, or the wrong way.

How are you? she said. I demonstrate physically: I curl up in a foetal position, then straighten out and lie flat. I am traumatised. I am exhausted. I hide behind the chair, scared. I then ask to open the blinds. It is a beautiful sunny day, and outside the window the tree has many leaf-buds developing. Beauty matters. I doubt I can be seen from outside, the window is just slightly too high.

No matter how I express myself here, part of me is monitoring, aware, making sure all is alright. I say that as I spread a tissue on a cushion, as I would not want spittle on it, then scream at it.

I pick up a colourful tangle from the shelves. I had not seen one before. It is designed for fidgeting, to help with smokers’ cravings, ADHD or other conditions. I open it out then curl it up as small as it will go. I am, here, investigating: not merely in a funk.

I look up at the shelf, and see the grooves in it do not match the pegs on which it sits. Ah, that’s what is wrong: I take the picture off the shelf, and turn the shelf round. I put the picture back. This pleases me. I have accomplished something very slightly worthwhile, made my world slightly more ordered. It is genuinely better, if only slightly. I like things Right, not Messy. I feel pleasure in it.

God, this is a weird thing to do. I go to a room with a stranger, tell her my misery and start to cry. I want answers, but have none, just anger and misery at the dullness of my existence. Well, I might as well come here, it gets me out of the house.

I want not to impinge.

Thinking of trans people. Those trans men who say transition helped them discover their feminine side- transition appears obviously wrong for them, but they seem satisfied. There is a battle for our rights on. I said I felt driven forward, and a trans woman told me she checked every step, hormones, transition at work, operation, was right for her, and friends told her without prompting how feminine she was. I’ve been reading about Why is Suffering? and What is God? and am no wiser.

I don’t know what I am doing wrong. It is not just luck. I must have done a great number of things wrong for things to be this bad. And I just don’t get it. I don’t get how it’s got this bad.

it’s not fair!

Well, thinking that is not always completely useless.

Blanche Girouard

All my life I have been accused of being masculine. “You’re really a man, aren’t you?” one particularly unpleasant ex-boyfriend joked. I can’t, now, remember why. Perhaps it was the fact that I was more assertive than he was. Or generally wore trousers rather than skirts. Or preferred whisky to wine and didn’t like handbags. Whatever it was, it bothered me, upset me and made me angry. What, I wondered, did it take to count as a woman?

Blanche Girouard wrote this in Standpoint magazine. It’s not a bad question, I worry about it myself. I would hope there could be various answers, and one important one would be that you want to. I also think a female reproductive system or certain intersex conditions would be sufficient without any other criterion, unless the person specifically wanted to count as a man. This is an answer on the libertarian end of the spectrum: many people who crave order and like clear definitions may have difficulty with it. Ideally, some people should be able to count as either, depending on how they feel at the time.

The story shows negging was a thing long before it was a word; men shared the idea in pick-up groups, but had been doing it spontaneously. Negging is a sign you should drop him, generally. I have a bottle of 12 year old Aberlour in my living room, wear trousers a lot, and don’t always carry a handbag- the clichés are no more a reliable guide for a trans woman than a cis woman. And someone who negs will always find a way under your skin, even if it has no relation to reality whatsoever.

Then, she brings up gender dysphoria. More and more young people are transitioning. Well, the shock figure of 2000 referrals to a specialist children’s clinic is still a tiny number compared to the number of children in the UK, and if you are going to transition you are probably better doing it earlier, rather than drifting through a painful and disconnected life until you do it in your thirties. People worrying about transition are telling young people they don’t know who they are or what they want, and also failing to trust the psychiatrists diagnosing and treating them. It is a confected outrage. Ms Girouard should be recognised as a woman if she wants, without stopping trans women from being ourselves.

Ms Girouard ends by saying “We must banish gender stereotypes”. Hear, hear. It is wearing being expected to wear high heels, even if you are a trans woman. I don’t know if I would have transitioned without gender stereotypes, but everyone benefits from a wider range of acceptable gendered behaviour, even people desperate for externally imposed rules to give a framework to their lives, who might object.

Also in Standpoint was an article by Toby Young, a journalist with no worthwhile education experience, who was sacked from the Office for Students for his misogyny and homophobia, though disgracefully not prevented from running a school. Should I read the whole thing? A comment shows how valuable the article is, with a paragraph of panic including the words “TRANNY MADNESS!!!!!!” I wondered why the writer thought six exclamation marks enough. Why not twelve? I glanced through the article. We need to separate the “T” from “LGBT”, he pontificates, ignorantly. What if these children have hormones and surgery? Well, they can’t, before age 18.

Rather, we need the acronym TGNC, which he uses fifteen times. “Trans and gender non-conforming”. That sounds more fluid. Yes, some people may want hormones and surgery, but should not think it necessary, or that they are not real trans if they do not want it. The trouble is, the obsession with us makes us desire to prove ourselves, and hormones and surgery are the way to do that.

Solitude

You are never alone with the internet, which is a problem: always being tempted to check Likes and Stats- eight page views in the last half hour! Ten upvotes for that Guardian comment!- creates a brain fog, distancing me from my feelings in a nutrition-free series of tiny pings of excitement. I am not alone with a book, or the TV. I had hoped “Cleaning Up” would be gentle escapism, the cleaning ladies getting one up on the wealthy, but it is far more subtle, even realistic: actions have consequences, there is both good and bad luck, and there is a slow, doubtful path to redemption for the hero, though she lies to herself and others, acts to make herself happy or safe in the moment whatever the consequences in two hours’ time, and is drowning in debt. Her daughters love her. But I even face that with half an eye on my laptop, and those facebook likes.

Possibly in some circumstances an Anglican church should be a “safe space”- in the East End during the Blitz, for example, giving some community reassurance in the horror. I don’t think a Quaker meeting should be. We encounter God there. But if mine has to be made safe, I may confront reality better meditating in my own flat, or in a walking meditation. I took the camera not to create beautiful images, but to record sensation. I wanted to create pictures of what caught my eye, not to package and curate a celebration or an imaginary ideal.

Though who am I to suggest the natural process of rusting, or the scaffolding of my civilisation, is not beautiful?

The photo does not show how steep the path is. I am constantly afraid of slipping and landing in the mud. And in the field, there was the sensation of soft divots thrown against my lower calves, and again the fear of slipping. And tension in the tendons at my knees. The intention is to observe what is around me, and how my body is, and for practise to develop awareness of my situation and feelings.

Because of the mud, suddenly the bush looms up, loaded with leaf-buds.

Ice on the river, though the air is above freezing. The one photo I actually wanted was from my last walk here, a coot walking on ice in the sunshine. I will see if I can take something like that. So I am not just in the moment: I am planning, and blogging, as I walk.

The river is half-visible above the thicket.

Despite the stern warning, this gate is no longer locked.

Geese on the water. I cannot create a record of my clearest impression, of a goose sliding down that bank into the river. I would need to set up the camera and wait for such a thing.

Even though there are still some on the bank.

The wet patches on the bridge are also slippery.

I did not intend to record the dog leaving a scent-mark, but that was the luck of it. My original picture did not show that the woman wore her right glove, but not her left, for the handholding.

I am not a nice person, I think, and I am where I am. This week I will meet my support worker, who is paid to get me into work (!) and the counsellor she has arranged. And I will exchange a few words at checkouts. I have stumbled into solitude, which I muddy with that obsessive checking of stats, and want to take the opportunity it brings. My boots heels hit the path with small shocks. Walking faster than others, I am slightly hot in an open coat, a thin shirt and no scarf.

That grass, taller than me, is striking.

I had not seen this inscription before. Now, writing, Google tells me it is from The Windhover by Hopkins, and that “sillion” is fresh soil upturned by a plough. Everywhere, evidence of human love!

That twig in the sun. A girl points her pink camera over ice, in the sun, with her parents on either side, encouraging, and her brother slightly ahead, on a scooter.

That I might have taken if I were curating a sales-pitch image of this place, or something for my managed image on facebook. I love the way the park is continually improved with art works.

This is the only one I have cropped. I have not adjusted the colour or light on any. That was the best view I could get of a bird walking on ice.

And the bottle catches my attention.

What of feelings? There was not much litter, the weather was beautiful, and I feel- not sure. Some fear and anger possibly. I have created my aloneness (which is different from solitude). “Self-Pity!” shout the Guards, aka the Inner Critic. They always speak up for my good, and I feel I might benefit if I could retrain them.

I know what would be good for me. Less screen, more meditation, possibly even action and encounter. I don’t know if I will manage it.