Coming out, again

H stretched, luxuriously, so I leant against her side and she put her arm round my shoulder. It was a little ungainly as I am so much taller than she, but I liked it. The busker was particularly good, a saxophonist with a smooth tone, and a quiet backing recording which supported him without ever being the main attraction. She had put me up in London and we were wandering along the South Bank. Then a woman looked down at me with disgust on her face. Two women, like that. Surprise, perhaps, H thought, and indeed I stare at women holding hands, in surprised delight.

The day before, there was a relaxed social gathering near Barnet, and I was in the garden of a woman I had not met before with about twenty people, three I’m meeting for the first time. It’s far too hot, and I take my wig off. I am chatting to F, who asks me if I have had chemotherapy. Her friend’s chemotherapy makes her very sick, and only gets rid of the cancer temporarily- three months, the last time, before she needed more- so chemotherapy is on her mind. I was surprised, but then, not everyone is switched on to the possibility of a trans woman, so some don’t read you however obvious you are. I told her I had gone bald before I was thirty. She tells me how good my lace-fronted wig is.

Circle time. Are there any priority shares? There are, and looking at F I say, oh, I am not having chemotherapy, I share that just because it came up. But then in circle time I wanted to share about that man, and how I felt, and how when cis women learn to deal with offensively pressing men in their teens, this was a new experience for me. Which means coming out as trans, to F. Back in the garden, she thanks me for my “honesty”. But honesty does not require me to make sure everyone I meet knows I am trans. If you can’t work that out, which always surprises me- though people working it out quickly disappoint me- I don’t have to tell you.

F is bi, and her mother was disappointed, disgusted even. Mum’s new partner is terribly homophobic. And when F had a long term male partner, Mum was relieved. Now F has a female partner again, and will have to come out to Mum again with all the same resistance as before.

Every day you may have to come out for the first time.

bright lily

Consequentialism

I assert my morality is mainly consequentialist, with a tincture of rules-based and virtue-ethics. Perhaps I should read up on what that means. So I turned to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Moral philosophy consists of people putting up theories, and people picking holes in them. When the theorists try to defend, that can be like a Ptolemaic astronomer finding ever more tiny epicycles to fit the data.

Stanford is better than “allaboutphilosophy.com”. There I read of Situational ethics: the idea that a moral response depends on all the circumstances of a situation, and not on any fixed law. I agree: but the site’s killer argument is that Situational ethics “contradicts the Bible”. Yet still Stanford felt like a series of straw men.

Most people could live on less, and give more to charity. That charity might save lives. Consequentialism might seem to put an obligation on us to save lives, and socialise at home rather than in the pub. However much you do for others, most people could find ways to make more sacrifices, and do more. I could see the greater sacrifice as morally preferable, but not obligatory. Or I could attempt to use Aristotle’s golden mean, a virtue ethics argument, to say that too great sacrifice is a fault. Or a Quaker line: “A simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source of strength.” JS Mill would argue that an act is only morally wrong if liable to punishment: it does not maximise utility to punish people for not being absolutely as moral as they might.

Philosophers refer to agent-neutral and agent-relative views. The theorist of agent-neutrality says that an act which is right for anyone is equally right for everyone. The agent-relative theorist might say here that a parent has a particular obligation to their family. This starts to look like argument after the fact: one can rationalise any decision. How to balance competing claims?

The article expresses it differently, but considers the Trolley problem. Imagine a train is coming down the tracks towards five workers. Points could divert it to another line where there is only one worker. Do you pull the lever, to save five lives at the cost of one?

Such problems have to be unreal. No, you cannot warn the driver or slow the trolley. No, you cannot warn the workers, and they cannot jump out of the way. Perhaps they are tied there- one damsel in distress on one line, five on the other. The argument for not pulling the lever is that my action will have directly caused the death of the One, even though saving the five, so I will not. What if the death would be my fault, asks Stanford: the workers were in danger because I had told them to work there, and had not known the trolley was coming because I had not bothered to check. In that case, I might collapse into a fugue of terror and do nothing.

I come away from the article with more questions than answers, and perhaps better able only to rationalise after a decision, rather than decide morally before.

Article on Consequentialism.

woman tied to railroad tracks

Allies II

Sometimes Allies- straight people who support LGBT rights- irritate me.

Journalist Tristan Cork covered a vigil for the Pulse nightclub shooting, and stuck a rainbow pin to his backpack, in solidarity. He didn’t bother to remove it, and a few days later was on the bus in the evening, when someone started shouting at him: I won’t repeat what he said, but it was basically a series of statements of abuse each containing a combination of the f-word, the c-word, the b-word, the word ‘gay’, ‘queer’ and ‘homo’. I am not sure what the “b” word is- bugger, possibly, a term I find quaintly old-fashioned, like “bloody”. He had forgotten the rainbow pin, so didn’t realise why the other was shouting at him. Then it clicked.

He’s a big bloke, and the abuser was weedy, but he still felt frightened of the situation escalating. He got off the bus as the other shouted “get off the bus you fxxking queer”.

He is completely right about checking his privilege. I realised then that every single moment of the day and night as I walk around Bristol or travel on its buses, I subconsciously feel I am the one who is supposed to be there – a white English, straight, able-bodied man. Indeed. I have been noticing mine. He makes a fair attempt at explaining that to other white, English, straight, able-bodied men. But then he says,

Whenever anyone mentions privilege there’s a collective groan.

You’re groaning now, I bet.

No. I wasn’t. I was cheering him on. Then I get to this paragraph of only five words which erases me. He assumes all his audience is straight. It’s a slap in the face.

I know he’s trying to explain to straight people who haven’t really thought about it before. I know he is using his journalistic skills to get through to them. I am grateful. And I don’t want to be grateful, because I don’t want to have anything to be grateful for. He’s an ally, and it rubs my nose in the fact that I need allies, because some people are like the abusive man. I knew that already. I have come across them.

There’s also his line about being jokingly called Asberger’s. Asberger’s is a gift: my friend has high intelligence and a retentive memory, sensitive empathy and an inability to work because people have thoughtlessly, cruelly found him not “normal” and therefore less than normal. It is a sickening waste.

When you say you’re an ally, you point up that I need allies, so you may receive my anger. It’s nothing personal. That thing about wearing safety pins to say you would step in if there was a racial attack. Ooh, look, I have a safety pin just in case you can’t see the brightness of my halo. Well, I don’t wear a safety pin, because I am worried about diverting abuse onto me. I have not seen such abuse, but am not sure I would intervene.

Tristan’s article.

Aubrey Beardsley, the dancers reward

Donald Trump

Dominic Durden, a 911 dispatcher, was struck and killed by an illegal immigrant as he rode his motorbike. His mother, Sabine Durden, spoke at the Republican convention. She is angry about illegal immigration, and only Donald J Trump will listen to her.

It is tragic that the man died, but it says nothing about illegal immigration generally. Not all illegal immigrants drive badly. The charge was “vehicular manslaughter without negligence”. The sentence was nine months in jail and six months thereafter in a work release programme, indicating a low level of culpability for the death.

Donald Trump said: Where was the sanctuary for all the other Americans who have been so brutally murdered, and who have suffered so horribly? These wounded American families have been alone. But they are alone no longer. Tonight, this candidate and the whole nation stand in their corner to support them, to send them our love, and to pledge in their honor that we will save countless more families from suffering the same awful fate.

How? Only by deporting all illegal immigrants- overstayers, workers, family members- the Out group, the bad people. They are not responsible, but will be scapegoated. “Our city on a hill is now a city under siege”.

On Jan. 20 of 2017, the day I take the oath of office, Americans will finally wake up in a country where the laws of the United States are enforced. We are going to be considerate and compassionate to everyone. But my greatest compassion will be for our own struggling citizens.

What forces will be available for this crackdown? What information?

I watched as they shouted USA! USA! USA! He nodded, smiling, sometimes joining in.

The estimate is 11.4m illegal immigrants in the US. They are not responsible. They are being scapegoated. This is obvious- but not to those Republicans, or to other Trump voters across the country. I am terrified. People are listening: he drips poison in their ears. We on the Left are Cassandra- we point out obvious truths and are not heard. Fox News reported a calculation that 7,500 citizens are killed each year by unlicenced drivers, half of them by illegal immigrants- who could not get a licence. There were 32,674 deaths on US roads in 2014; 1775 in Britain, with a fifth of the population: we might propose better ways of reducing the figure than deporting every illegal immigrant.

On LGBT, he said the Pulse nightclub shooter was a “radical Islamic terrorist” rather than a homophobic fantasist, then I will do everything in my power to protect our L.G.B.T.Q. citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology. Going off script, he told them he was glad to hear them applaud that- surprised that they did not want queers killed by ISIS. Hateful homegrown ideologies, though, are completely OK for him.

I watched the Governor of Wisconsin’s speech, with after every couple of sentences “America Deserves Better”. He encouraged the audience to join in, and once I found myself saying it too. “America Deserves Better”. With enough anger and fear, you can drown out all rational thought.

Trump speech transcript.

Trump convention speech

Going out

It is hot. It is beautiful.

Into the park. I have not walked here for some time, and take my camera.

at the top of the tree

This is how procrastination works. I can live with myself because I say “I will do this tomorrow”. I am not the kind of person who runs from this; I face things, and see possibilities, and take opportunities. And when it comes, I don’t, because I really really don’t want to but I don’t articulate that to myself. I find what I want when I see what I do.

The blossom is so beautiful.

wild flower

wild flowers

wild blossom

If I were to do psychotherapy, I would like more motivation. I hide away because I want safety now. I can understand that safety in the long term is a worthwhile goal, but now is more pressing. It is the way I know to find safety. It is terribly boring but it is, after all, what I want.

I would like to despise myself less.

I have not seen this path before. Maybe it has just been opened. It goes to the river, upstream of a weir, as a portage point for kayaks. I retrace my steps, and take another path. Perhaps I will have to go back, yet now I am walking beside a branch of the river, which spreads in the broad valley, where I have never been before. It is beautiful, an entirely unexpected new experience. I come out at the assault course.

climbing frame

ropes

assault course

It has been rebuilt, and looking at the scale I guess for about ten year olds. What a beautiful thing, to test yourself against! You can mature and grow, and still play on climbing frames!

It is hot, and I have taken an interest, and explored. Seeing something beautiful, I have recorded it, seeking to make my pictures beautiful. I remain perplexed, but slightly less distressed.

Unwelcome advances

I was writing the email in my head. “I’m not coming because your flirting creeps me out.” I am not used to men making passes, and I was angry and upset: I cycled like the wind because my anger physically invigorated me.

I have said I am not interested, clearly. “I am gynephile”, I said, and proceeded to explain that. And he keeps doing it, and yet again as a trans woman I am learning things cis women learn in their teens. It was so enlightening talking to Mhairi.

Mhairi told me of ceilidhs in Steòrnabhagh. There were the young men, who you wanted to dance with, and the old men- say, 35 or over- who wanted to dance with you. Some you might do Strip the Willow with, but not a St Bernard’s Waltz as a ballroom hold would be fatal. You would set a boundary, but even if they crossed it you would take pains to care for their feelings: you find an excuse to stop dancing. You need to keep the peace. You will need to socialise with them later.  Some men could be vindictive, feeling insulted if you would not give yourself to them and finding ways to punish you. It is your responsibility to extricate yourself, and let them down as gently as possible.

So I can’t punch him on the nose, then. That is a man’s reaction.

He hints to me that he can get me what I want- even, financial security, though that seems mere fantasy. The more I think about it, the more impossible it seems. Something less, though, but still something I really want: he hints to me that I could be useful, that I could do something worthwhile. Increasingly, though, I don’t see that is possible either. He wants to tell me I am beautiful, to hold my hand, possibly to hold more of me. He has discussed an “open relationship” with his wife, he tells me. She is very friendly to me. She knows how to manage him, I suppose, knows his faults and foibles and how to get what she wants, what she mun put up with. The relationship might be happily co-operative, or a constant striving for mastery- I find it harder to understand how the latter could appeal to anyone, but it appears that it does to some.

It worries me that it turned me on, a bit; but Mhairi is only as sympathetic as she reasonably can be. That too is for me to deal with.

My self-concept is involved. “I am not the kind of person who-” In that imagined email, I got on my high horse. “Even if a woman was positively delighted that her husband had found another woman,” I expatiated, sententiously, “because it stopped him bothering her, and put a spring in his step-

I would still not want to be that other woman.” That might be moral disapproval, or a feeling of being dishonoured, or otherwise completely unrelated to reality. We are civilised beings, and we are animals. I wrote that my No, my tendency to withdraw and hide, is far too strong- but I really can’t see any other way to deal with this.

Later- I had agreed to go over again, and I have not. What happened? He took my hand, lightly enough that I could pull away but not actually letting go. I did not pull away, did not particularly indicate discomfort that I felt. I then went home and felt so enraged that I wanted to tell everyone what a vile pervert he is. Now I just withdraw from the situation. None of this is satisfactory to me. Perhaps I might learn and find better ways of responding, but right now I just want to hide away: hiding is the best way I have found of managing my feelings. Though when I was engaged with X I realised after that I had not been obsessively thinking about Y, which was a relief; and practice, rather than analysis, might be a better way of finding my way forward.

Aubrey Beardsley, illustration for the Oscar Wilde play Salome

Advances

He came in from the rain. He stood before me, and his hand appeared a few inches from my face. “Kiss the rain,” he said. I stared at the hand until it disappeared.

This seems like a feminine way of dealing with it. I do not make a fuss, but I do not respond, and the man gives up. And-

I have been completely ashamed of myself. I sent a text, making an unwanted advance. I have also cursed my own judgment- for it seemed like a good idea at the time, and yet in hindsight I see that I should have known her better, that it took no account of her feelings or her likely response. I thought not being drunk was a sufficient defence against idiocy:

Most people get drunk
before texting like this- but
I wanted to word it well

Not being drunk
did not stop it being ill-advised.
I saw that, after

I do not know what I expected.
I hardly know what I wanted.
We do these things

In flailing desperation.
You would not even let me down gently.

Indeed she would not. Letting me down gently, not making a fuss, is the feminine response, but she has had her consciousness raised. All I considered was my own desires.

She warned me. I texted again; but then thought, Can I get anything out of this? I might have gone on if I thought she would be “feminine” and let me down gently. No chance of that so I backed off. And, after, I have been kicking myself. Why the fk did I do that? I cannot trust my judgment or my responses. I have been completely miserable with it.

And I feel completely alone and unloveable. I see no possible improvement in my situation. I have to deal with that feeling myself. After backing off, I have gone back to thinking obsessively of her, and have to deal with that too- it will go away in time.

A woman posted on fb about being followed home by a younger man. She crossed the road to check she was not imagining it, and he crossed following her. When he caught her up she screamed until he went away. My action was different in degree and not in kind. Do you harass women? Perhaps you do not realise it? I love about this sketch that, though he does silly things and is covered in sick, the man sees himself as reasonable:

Poppy

poppies 2

I commune with the poppies. Like them, I have this long, ungainly, spiky stalk, and the beautiful petals. The whole shakes in the breeze, and the petals fold and twist, yet do not tear- it is not as fragile as it looks. I can learn from them; I can take their nature into myself, that beauty, that yielding strength.

In meeting I speak. The Spirit speaks through us. Each of us, ministering, gives of ourselves, like light through stained glass, a myriad of beautiful colours. I want to hear you. J, visiting, speaks of singing hymns in a rarely used country church. They sang, and suddenly there was a violent hail-storm, its noise drowning them out; and then the sun shone.

Over coffee I talked to J of the radical feminist at YM, objecting to me in women’s loos. I see her point. “You think like a woman,” J said. This was the part-absolution I needed, to begin to absolve myself.

 ♥♥♥

I find myself thinking of her, and get enraged with myself. The most distant connection brings her to mind- there is a lot of cello music at the Proms this year. I must recover from this!

OK- it keeps coming to my conscious mind, so I will let my conscious mind think of it. What is the situation now? How has it been? Who is she, really? What is possible? What is or has been good?

So much of my habitual way is resistance. My No is strong. My slow thinking, working things out, overcoming those habits, has a lot of work to do; yet acceptance is just so much nicer!

poppies in MH bookplate

The gay brexiteer

Are LGBT people generally anti-authoritarian? Increasingly, no- and this is a good thing.

Jonathan Haidt speaks up for Authoritarians. I am globalist and cosmopolitan. I started this blog saying this:

parchment

John Lennon’s Imagine says the same. Immigration has created an expansion in British tolerance, and I am its beneficiary. After Niemöller- first they come for the immigrants, then they come for the queers. Thank God for the Empire Windrush!

Most globalists count it a virtue that we value freedom and diversity. For most of us, that comes from lack of existential threats. Feeling safe, we can desire that safety for all humans, and seek to welcome refugees. But not me. I am a benefit claimant on a former council estate in the middle of nowhere, about to be driven out as house price profiteers shove up housing costs hoping London commuters will come from ever further away. I am globalist because diversity is a primary survival value for me: I have to express myself as trans, or I will wither and languish.

William Blake’s cosmopolitanism- “Everything that is, is holy”- came from mysticism and moral insight. I am not entirely with Haidt: but globalism in me is not necessarily a moral advance.

Haidt argues that globalists see themselves as morally superior to nationalists, and believe preferring British people is racist. Nationalists value their unique national culture. You love your spouse more than other people, and this is a healthy, natural bond- nationalism is a similar bond to a much larger group, less than all people. Our social contract with our own nation promotes trust and understanding (see my first beautiful morality, above). Even “racism” is divisible: Haidt says the Nationalist’s dislike of difference is understandable if it is fear of others’ alien values, incompatible with ours.

Here he introduces the Authoritarian, and cites Karen Stenner. Stenner argues that authoritarianism is a psychological predisposition to become intolerant, feeling a need to protect the in-group from threats to group values, norms and authorities. When there is no perceived threat, there is tolerance. They believe in conformity and obedience over diversity. They are different from the conservatives, who fear change: in Trollope’s analogy, conservatives pull the brakes rather than hold the reins of the national coach. Brexit, or the Mexican border Wall, are not conservative, but authoritarian. Praying five times a day, or fasting in Ramadan, is not a threat and can be accommodated by a reasonable employer seeking the best worker for a job- though employers free to give zero hours contracts would feel no need to do so- but is seen as one.

Stenner: [T]he increasing license allowed by those evolving [globalist] cultures generates the very conditions guaranteed to goad latent authoritarians to sudden and intense, perhaps violent, and almost certainly unexpected, expressions of intolerance. Haidt’s solution, advocated as the way to get authoritarians to accept immigration, is to abandon multiculturalism and seek assimilation- eg teaching “British Values”.

I was surprised to hear on Radio 4 a young gay man expressing such authoritarian views. On the Briefing Room, Christian, a hair-stylist from Wakefield aged 23 is proud to have voted out, as 30 years in the EU has not accomplished much. “I think as British people we are strong and we know a lot of things so why couldn’t we be in this world on our own?” Immigration and the budget contribution are big issues for “a lot of people”, he says.

I will stereotype- he sounds camp to me. In one way I am delighted he is not driven to valuing diversity above all other things by authoritarian intolerance of LGBT. He sounds comfortable speaking for “us”- leave voters, the people of Wakefield or of Britain. While I consider globalism more morally, even evolutionarily, advanced, I fear I have been forced into it by my personal need for diversity. I would correct his authoritarianism, if I could, by taking away his causes for fear and mistrust, by giving him a feeling that the country has a stake in him. The right wing demagogues who have Taken Control will not do that.

Jonathan Haidt. The “American Interest” allows non-subscribers one free article per month.
The Briefing Room.

Bruegel, the peasant and the nest robber

Systematic thinking

Systems thinking is understanding how different parts of a system can influence one another within a whole.

Systemic thinking, unlike analytical thinking, requires multiple skill sets to establish a holistic view of a system and explain its behavior.  On the contrary, analytical thinking is used to break down a system in to simpler parts in order to identify the pieces and examine how they work together.  Unfortunately, humans most frequently analyze situations in a cause-and-effect relationship; we naturally handle these problems in isolation and solve them linearly. (Systems thinking works blog.)

At the highest level systemic thinking breaks down. There is no Theory of Everything: quantum mechanics explains subatomic particles and general relativity explains visible matter- but they are irreconcilable. Perhaps systems may be too complex for humans to understand.

Systems thinking is a management discipline that concerns an understanding of a system by examining the linkages and interactions between the components that comprise the entirety of that defined system. The whole system is a systems thinking view of the complete organisation in relation to its environment. It provides a means of understanding, analysing and talking about the design and construction of the organisation as an integrated, complex composition of many interconnected systems (human and non-human) that need to work together for the whole to function successfully…For every legitimate, official or consciously designed system (which is intended to be and is supposedly rational) there is a shadow system. The shadow system is where all the non-rational issues reside; e.g. politics, trust, hopes, ambitions, greed, favours, power struggles, etc. (Systemic Leadership Institute.)

Rationality is the quality or state of being reasonable, based on facts or reason. Rationality implies the conformity of one’s beliefs with one’s reasons to believe, or of one’s actions with one’s reasons for action. (Wikipedia)

The virtue of Rationality means the recognition and acceptance of reason as one’s only source of knowledge, one’s only judge of values and one’s only guide to action. … It means a commitment to the principle that all of one’s convictions, values, goals, desires and actions must be based on, derived from, chosen and validated by a process of thought. (Ayn Rand, quoted by The Importance of Philosophy). No. Entirely and completely, No. Convictions of the nature of the World, possibly may come from reason and observation, but require knowledge of humanity- you need to know unconscious bias before you may eliminate it, or you become stuck in rationalisation, argument which only seems rational but which comes from the conclusion you desire. And we are social animals: we have unconscious instinctive understanding of each other, which we share with monkeys, and is therefore the product of thirty million years of evolution. Actions should be decided by an understanding of the world, but often come from unconscious processes rather than conscious thought. Goals and desires are non-rational: some people want children, some are appalled by the idea. Each is right for that person.

My values are chaos of thought and passion all confused– some seem to be aesthetic; the closest I can come to an axiom is, What contributes to human flourishing is good. Each of us must choose our own way to flourish.

The meaning of Life is human goodness. I heard that on the telly last night, in the context of a discussion of In Parenthesis by David Jones.

According to Aristotle, The human soul has an irrational element which is shared with the animals, and a rational element which is distinctly human. The most primitive irrational element is the vegetative faculty which is responsible for nutrition and growth. An organism which does this well may be said to have a nutritional virtue. The second tier of the soul is the appetitive faculty which is responsible for our emotions and desires (such as joy, grief, hope and fear). This faculty is both rational and irrational. It is irrational since even animals experience desires. However, it is also rational since humans have the distinct ability to control these desires with the help of reason. The human ability to properly control these desires is called moral virtue, and is the focus of morality. Aristotle notes that there is a purely rational part of the soul, the calculative, which is responsible for the human ability to contemplate, reason logically, and formulate scientific principles. The mastery of these abilities is called intellectual virtue. (Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy.)

This is only a beginning.

Bruegel, the return of the herd