Misgendering

When people want to complain about “Political Correctness gone mad” they name Misgendering. It frightens me when they say Democrats or other relatively Left parties should drop PC, and pick on trans folk, as if we had lost the Left the elections, and throwing us under the bus was the route back to being in contention. Constantly complaining about dopey things, from pronouns that “misgender” to whether Ann Coulter should be allowed to speak at Berkeley … has become a hallmark of Team Blue over the last decade. It’s no small part of the reason Red America threw up their hands, looking for any alternative to push back against the inanity wrote Matt Labash in the NYT. Labash is a Republican, but Democrats say this sort of thing too.

This gets wearing. The archetypal PC idiocy is treating trans folk with courtesy. Possibly the complainers felt even gay marriage was off limits; too many people support it, no-one is particularly attacking it. They may in the future, but not now. But some people take pride in misgendering- calling me “he” and feeling self-righteous about it. I slip up myself, so don’t object to people making mistakes, only to people who do it intentionally, or do not see why it is offensive, like Labash here- I think he finds the complaints dopey, not the “mistakes”.

It matters to us. We transition whether or not the circumstances are propitious. We fail to thrive, or get murdered, where they are not. The callous answer is something like “Well, truth matters to me, you’re really [or not] a man”- but it is an excuse to be callous, a preference for being nasty to us, a way of finding someone to look down on. Some prefer the liberating chance to be cruel over the chafing requirement to be courteous.

They have such an elegant way of expressing it! We named the microaggression “misgendering”, one simple word for when someone uses pronouns as if I were a man. That means when the Right wants to allude to trans folk, they merely need quote “misgendering”, in scare quotes because they deny it is a real word, though it usefully names a phenomenon and has wide currency: it is in the Oxford dictionaries. And some Left-wing writers say the Left should abandon the more extreme political correctness, and the example they choose is Misgendering.

They might choose abortion in the US, and write of “reaching out to pro-life Democrats”. This article in NYT points out abortion is an economic issue. Poorer women have more unwanted pregnancies, where they cannot afford a child, then where they could not continue in work or education fall further into poverty. On that basis, misgendering is economic too: we will transition even though in an atmosphere of hostility will lose our jobs.

Inequality matters. The inequality of badly paid workers with insecure jobs matters, and I want them to vote Left; and the Right makes them angry, then diverts the anger against out-groups, such as immigrants or LGBT folk. The Right-wing siren song is that nothing can be done about the inequality, but at least you can feel better if you can express anger against an out-group. They want to blame immigrants, then call third generation British Asians “immigrants”, then foment hatred for us. First they come for the immigrants, then the queers. Who’s next? Might it be you?

I know

I know I am a person of integrity.

This came to me this morning. With a minute or two before I want to leave for the Quaker meeting, I felt moved to go into the living room, then to affirm myself before the mirror. I like myself. Then, I know myself.

Then

I – know
I know

I know
I know.
I know.
I know.
I am a person of integrity.

This is lovely. I can tell the truth. I can know things in two ways, it seems, in words, for I have a great gift in the precise use of words, and by feeling- by knowledge of the heart in silence. This unites the two: what I know in my heart, I put into words; and that is Ministry.

I have a lovely ride there, with light following winds and occasional hazy sunshine, and I am a person of integrity running in my mind. I get to meeting early, chat for a bit, then settle into worship. This is a good place, and I am nervous, and self-protecting, and that is alright; and it is in my mind there, too- I am a person of integrity.

We are still discussing Quaker Faith and Practice, chapter 22 this week. What difference do we make in the world? Did you have a dream of doing some great healing work? My healing work is simply and entirely on myself, right now, I say.

(Oh, shall I say it? Saying it is frightening. I close my eyes so I cannot see them, and unprompted my voice goes softer and very high-

I am a person of integrity.

Someone I don’t think I met before looks at me- appreciatively? Evaluatingly?- and says, “How wonderful, to know that and be able to say it!” I hold her gaze for a moment, then say, laughing, “How cool is that?” And I am in self-protection mode, again, not realising others will accept what I say, trying to find a way to chivvy them along- and it does not work on her, I feel, and she still finds my statement wonderful. I note that others, who may have accomplished more than I, express uncertainty or even perhaps dissatisfaction with the good they have accomplished, it is only a little, and I am glad to be proud of my own achievement here. It is a real achievement.

I am a person of integrity.

Knowing yourself

I would never hit anyone.

You may not be very impressed. When someone says I would never hit a woman I am perturbed, as such people might not include me in that. It’s a claim to a minimal moral stance which most people in society would make. Some would make it when it is not true, and more quietly many might imagine a situation where they might hit someone, or think that desirable.

People do not know themselves, and make such statements with an air of complete confidence though they are belied by later circumstance. I read that this may be an evolutionary advantage: we say what will make ourselves look good, even though it is not true, and because we believe it completely we show no visible sign of lying, so are more convincing to others. As so often, evolution shows it is not there to make you feel good. This is just one kind of blind spot which makes my question Who am I really? so fascinating, and frustrating. The point of a blind spot is I don’t know it’s there. I would say “I would never hit someone” with perfect confidence, with no inkling that there was another reality behind it, or anything to go looking for. So I can’t give current examples of such untrue moral claims I make now, because when I realise I stop claiming them.

However, I know I would never hit anyone because I have been in situations where I have been hit or attacked, and not hit back. I know myself because I have observed how I react. Aware how one might make such a statement with unjustified confidence, I make it from experience.

I find it hard to claim virtue for this: pacifism, restraint, civilisation perhaps. I find it easier to acknowledge if I see it as a bad thing- cowardice, or perhaps confusion as the Rules I rely on don’t seem to be working, the framework for my world has broken down and I am bereft. I can see situations where self-defence or defence of another is the virtuous thing to do, and other situations where the ability to defend myself might reduce a threat, and took karate for over a year because of that.

Seeing where I lack self-knowledge, and caring about that, I might have greater self-knowledge than a person who simply makes the moral claim with self-confidence and does not dig any deeper. Then he hits someone, and says “I was provoked!” No, he was not a hypocrite or fibber, that is not what he meant, there was always a qualification in the phrase. I would never hit anyone first; or, unless I obviously ought to. With my conservative background I would feel (rather than rationally calculate) that there would be times where you ought to.

My uncertainty makes me give energy to it, so that I have greater self-knowledge. The qualities you most doubt in yourself may be the ones which you have devoted most time to developing, because you care about them.

Egos and souls

Lovely phrase I got from Jamie Catto– “Egos trying to act like souls”. We imagine we know what “Enlightenment” looks like, we judge how far along the path we are, and we try to behave as if we are more enlightened than we are, or even have Attained Enlightenment. This can be a good thing. It is good to walk your talk, and acting in a particular way strengthens the brain connections leading to acting like that. We wear down the path. It is a bad thing if it gets you to suppress contrary information out of consciousness. You reach cognitive dissonance, and deny reality.

I thought, oh brilliant. Another thing to judge myself on. I shall immediately start to judge and analyse whether I do that.

It’s not conscious and unconscious self. The unconscious self is looking out of my eyes, hearing what I do not hear consciously, fully aware of all my sensory input. Something in me notices my friend, and I become conscious of her. There is a constant interplay. When I write, words bubble up from unconsciousness, I am consciously aware of something, it fades away. Always there is that memory within me of sitting on my father’s knee, crying and being comforted, and it surfaces for a moment now and then. Sometimes consciousness ruminates, like chewing on gristle, ideas I have chewed over many times, and sometimes it goes to work analysing a problem new to me. Analysis is good. And a temporary solution to a problem popped into my head just now, it had been stewing unconsciously, and I emailed it to a friend.

Insofar as there is a “self” or different “selves”, they are both conscious and unconscious.

So what is the Ego, as opposed to the soul? Is it Ego when I am judging and analysing, soul when I am simply perceiving? So INTP is always more enlightened than INTJ? What about Thinking/Feeling, is Feeling always more enlightened, or is that another false dichotomy?

The concepts of ego and soul, considered as different from each other, might not mean this, but ego is divided against itself, with superego telling it to be sensible and id trying to overwhelm it with impulse. Soul is one, thinking out routes to feeling-driven goals, thinking and feeling working together to prioritise, getting to know people and learning new information, seeing what is, and what is possible, going with the flow to build a structured life- EISNTFJP. Not that I’m there yet, I can talk without walking, the best “The Healthy Relationship” articles are written by divorcees. If the Tao is flowing like water, does that include learning how to perform a task, or just performing it?

I hold myself back, because I am afraid, because I am hurt, self-conscious, untrusting. BAD THINGS MIGHT HAPPEN and however not-bad they turn out they still seem bad in advance.

Threats and benefits

Fran: large groups of people seem to feel strangely insecure, as if they have to conform with each other in order to exist, and the only way to do that is to require everyone to be superficially the same. Very odd, for where is the threat?

Good question, which trans folk are uniquely well placed to answer, often conforming until we stop, and become our real selves.

The threat is to my identity. When I put on an identity I invested a great deal in it. It has overcome many impulses and feelings which I suppressed out of consciousness, because they terrified me. I still have that fear- “The monster will get me”- it is an existential threat, because I feared the withdrawal of my mother’s love at the moment I could not survive without it. That fear is hard to grow out of, even though I am now adult. So the identity, as a “man”, was me, safe and protected, and losing it would be becoming naked and vulnerable. This is terrifying.

For others, the threat might come from their age group, growing up. If you like X you are no longer one of the in crowd.

Then there is the difficulty of admitting you were wrong. So much of your life has been wasted. This is terribly difficult. When we assert something our self-respect and self-belief become involved.

You might be rescued by others who do not conform. You realise that there is no point in conformity after all, and you have tortured yourself into conformity for nothing. It is painful to realise you have wasted so much of your life and potential, so you may just snap back into denial. Yet if you can accept that lesson you can become free.

This is a slow process. I looked at myself in the mirror as I cleansed and moisturised, and thought, I like myself. I frustrate myself a bit. No, I frustrate myself a lot, but I grow to like myself. This is taking me years. I am frustrated with my slow progress, and pleased with my progress.

For trans folk, the difference between the conforming, adopted false self and the underlying real self is so great that we cannot continue with the process of denial.

The benefit is becoming integrated, becoming one. Rather than the competing demands of real self and false identity pulling me in opposite directions, I pull in just one. My feelings can overwhelm me, but I am not so much spending energy on suppressing them, and they do not so much nag at the corner of my consciousness until they can be acknowledged. I feel the feeling.

I know what I need. I work to get it. Increasingly, I flow towards it, the integrated self doing what is needed without all this analysis.

Knowing other people

Could you know any other person? Yes, but perhaps not deeply. We are social creatures, in social situations, and we respond habitually and with learned behaviour; we fit roles, from “class clown” or “nerd” onwards. We might understand ourselves under those roles, like the trans woman who tries to be manly. Every time you conform, you imagine that is the real you, and are pleased, like a poor tennis player having a good day and imagining that is their usual form. The true self, the woman, is a nagging doubt at the back of your mind that you cannot quite put into words. For we are a people of words, and we understand things by words, and do not understand what we cannot put in words. Already, much thoughtcrime is impossible because we have not the words for it.

You can know another only as deeply as you know yourself. If you gain words for feelings, and are taught to accept your feelings, you can find how you feel. Otherwise your feelings rage under consciousness, not breaking through. So I raged, and feared and suppressed my rage.

And now I wonder if I understand others. Proust delves deeply into his narrator’s feelings, responses, ridiculous miscalculations, fears, desires, and other characters are mostly façades. We hear what they say, he observes how they look, and that is it. If I too much value the conventional, how one is supposed to behave in particular situations, how one is supposed to find pleasure, then I might judge another on how conventional they are. This is a good person. He behaves as I have been taught to expect people to behave.

And then I grow to know myself. I am still often amazed that other people have similar experiences, or feel entirely differently, but grow to accept the possibility.

It has always been a delight to spend a weekend with people like me, and I first noticed this with Mensa, the club for those who score in the top 2% on an IQ test. (I’m in the top 1%). We used our intelligence like a Birmingham screwdriver. I have not been to a Mensa weekend for twenty years, and might not feel that now. My sense is that Quakers are different sorts, though mostly very intelligent, and I warmly anticipate Yearly Meeting in August. A Quaker writes, Authentic connection involves sharing self-knowledge and recognising, not only what we have in common, but what is genuinely different. I am unsure of that. I might be more comfortable resting in what the group values and does together.

Do I as a Queer person seek to pass as “normal” or find liberal, tolerant circles where I can find others doing the work of accepting me? Do we keep to the things we can agree on? I feel it is a blessing, being so uncomfortable presenting male that I was forced to find the real me, the woman, underneath, but if she makes others too uncomfortable I might pretend to me more like them, so they would not cast me out.

And the similarities are real. I value what I share with Quakers when we are most conformist to our own group. It is closer to “Real me” than other groups might be. How delightful, to let out a part of me with this group, or the trans women’s support group, which I cannot let out with those who would not recognise it. Do not cast your pearls before swine.

So, can I know another? Only so far as they show themselves in the situations where we meet. H said I knew her better than anyone apart from close family. We can know ourselves best when we can open up to another.

teople.

Ghost in the Shell

The city is beautiful, as the camera moves through it at night. Moving hologram faces advertise, lights flash, and people lead desperate or dismal lives of poverty amid the buzz and clatter. Street people and street dogs search for sustenance amid danger including law enforcement. I never expected to count the number killed, as mooks appear to be shot, elegantly, one bullet for each chest, or in a hail of bullets, but the irresistible force of each attack, by law enforcement, criminal gang, or billionaire’s private army shocked and repelled me. And the hero falling backwards slowly off a building, her cyborg body capable of such visual brilliance, is beautiful.

The Bad Billionaire, suborning the state for his own purposes, first by corruption then by violence, is introduced early. Will he get his comeuppance in the end? That would be a spoiler: so let us consider The Night Manager, by John Le Carré. In the book, the bad billionaire escapes, his fortune intact, but in the TV serial his tentacles of corruption cannot rescue him from law enforcement. In real life, I scarcely know. Billionaires trade in drugs where society has lost the power to reach them, and billionaires buy governments by paying for campaigns, or by manipulating the news people read. Much of this activity, suborning democracy, is legal, and when there are competition authorities policing monopolies, they fail to prevent the public being gulled. So a “happy ending” where the Billionaire gets his, either by death or prosecution, might simply seem unrealistic, reinforcing our powerlessness in real life as much as a more realistic ending, where he gets away with it, would.

The great corporation saved her life. It is a technological miracle, manipulated for the Billionaire’s own ends. Her understanding of herself, of right and wrong and duty, is broken and reformed, and she finds her old love. I can believe in the world not being as it seems, but less in the Good characters finding out the Bad, and by opposing ending them. I am too jaded for this optimism among the relentless death and destruction and the grinding misery.

The Spider Tank was prefigured in dialogue. “Is the Spider Tank in position?” I wondered what it could be. I hoped for, well, a tank filled with spidery things, either living or technological, like a swarm or sea to consume the victim. That would fit the fighting in virtual reality or a sort of digital consciousness where vision confuses and distracts, and threat lies behind everything familiar or hopeful-seeming. It made a change from going into a darkened bar at night, shooting the bad guys who shoot the pole-dancers by accident but not the good guys. As in a real fire fight you would not know what is going on and the camera shows discrete bits of information continually changing as you would look around; but it makes clear that I would be lying bloody on the ground, before I had a chance to imagine what was going on.

Not transgender: a tomboy.

A mother writes in the New York Times of her daughter, who wears track pants and t-shirts, who aged seven affects a Luke Skywalker hair cut, and who, having been told she is a “tomboy” identifies as that, though she asks why it is a tomboy. She is quite sure she is a girl and not trans. Wanting freedom and respect for children who identify as trans, we surely want the same for children, however they identify.

The mother has read up on puberty blockers, and is quite willing to accept if her child decides she is a trans boy; but the child does not say that. The mother accepts her child’s decisions, as when aged three she wanted clothes like her father’s. By her own words she is the model parent for a trans child, accepting and backing up her child, though the child does not identify as trans; I believe her.

Why would a child identify as trans? Would a child who is reassured that they can behave as they like, as far as gender roles go, never consider that they were really trans? If a boy wants a princess dress from the Disney store, does that make him a girl? Would a boy imagine he was a girl, because he picks up from the culture that those things are for girls?

That is, is there a gender identity or just motivation towards certain behaviour?

Parental support needs to be self-sacrificial, like Billy Elliot’s father scabbing during the miner’s strike to support his son’s ballet ambitions. Even then, the family need some support and recognition from outside, or the child may go along with their peers’ ways. They have, after all, to know they can survive in the world.

The mother criticises the teacher in the after-school club, who asked, Your child wants to be called a boy, right? Or is she a boy that wants to be called a girl? Which is it again? The implication of the article is that if the child is non-conforming, there is pressure on the family to transition. People understand transition now, and the mother implies some think it appropriate for non-conforming children. I hope a teacher or doctor would want to ensure that the parent was not moulding a child to prevent transition, and such moulding could be done subtly- of course the child can climb trees, or wear what s/he likes, but must never talk of being a boy. Children can read their parents, what is approved or disapproved.

The mother writes of her objection to the child being asked- but it is the child’s decision, and a question is not a demand. Properly used, questions can help a child understand the range of her/his options. They had not known it was possible until they heard of it.

More generally, if gender roles are not enforced on anyone, will anyone transition? Commenters talk of when they were girls, or children they know, in the 1950s or 1970s playing with a pedal car marked “Police” or feeding ants to spiders. Others talk of now. I am a woman; I love fashion and am considered attractive. And yet I am a scientist, an atheist, and a science-fiction nerd. I despise romances and chic lit. I am not warm, supportive or nurturing. Another says Speaking as a short-haired, slacks-wearing adult woman working in a male field who nevertheless feels feminine, I think it’s important to keep looks/roles separate from deeper identities. She feels the feminine makeup skirts heels look is expensive and uncomfortable.

Trans folk need freedom for everyone. In a society where gender roles are rigid, trans people will be excluded. It seems to me that adults are freer to express themselves as they wish; and yet the numbers transitioning increase. This is because trans is real for people, not just adjusting to circumstances.

New York Times article.

Elections and the Moneyed elites

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has announced an election. Buoyed up by the success of Mr Erdogan, Mrs May will follow him to go full-on Putin. Politics all around what used to be called the West is a conflict between the people and the moneyed elites, who use right wing populism to gain power, for a programme that will involve destruction of public spending except on weapons, and the end of legal protection of workers, consumers and the environment. Mr Trump is moving this programme forward in the US, such as with a drugs policy which will increase mass incarceration of ethnic minorities, though his attempt to withdraw health care from those the Affordable Care Act granted insurance was foiled.

Democracy is under threat across NATO countries. Russia seeks to destabilise us with fake news, sock-puppet tweets, facebook shares and comments, and hacking of progressive political parties. Billionaires buy politicians to reduce regulations on billionaires, increasing their freedom to pollute, shove up rents, and despoil the biosphere.

In the British election, with first past the post votes for single-member constituencies, I will vote Labour. Labour has a chance in my constituency to unseat the hard-right nationalist who is standing for the Conservative party, formerly thought to be a centre-right party but now wholly in the hands of the anti-democratic hard right lie machine. Tactics the BNP used twenty years ago, the Conservatives use now, with the difference that at least the BNP promised its supporters council houses. The Conservatives offer nothing but higher taxes on workers, higher rents for the benefit of international investors, and the destruction of public services. For example, they incite hatred of immigrants, but admit they will not reduce immigration after Brexit.

The Right attempts to demonise a “Liberal elite”. Well, globalisation will not favour workers over rentiers, but with strong democratic control it can be managed. We could tax multi-national companies, and reduce the curse of transfer pricing and opaque offshore companies with no clear ownership. Better a liberal elite than a moneyed elite.

The Right, offering nothing, has good slogans. “Take back control,” they said, and a small majority voted for them. They will reduce regulations protecting us, and increase surveillance on us claiming to protect us from an almost entirely imaginary terrorist threat. In Britain, Get Rid Of Them: find the party most likely to defeat the Conservative, and campaign for it. In France, probably Mr Macron is the most sane candidate. Mr Putin’s lie machine working against him is the best indicator I have.

Mr Trump’s flotilla steams towards North Korea, which will destroy Seoul in a murder-suicide rather than surrender. The world has gone mad. But there is something I can do: campaign for Labour in my own constituency.

Judgment

I sense she regularly judges me, as too stupid (it’s relative), blinkered or ill-read to understand her explanation, or be worth engaging with to educate or persuade. Of course she judges me. We meet, and we react to each other out of our knowledge of each other, which must involve judgment. It remains worthwhile for both of us. Why would you fear judgment? Relationship is impossible without it. It is nuanced, almost never merely that someone is “bad”.

How could I know others? Well they are human, therefore like me- to an extent. Possibly my judgment of others is unusually forebearing, making allowances, gentle, but not off the scale. And as Samuel Johnson said, If any man would consider how little he dwells upon the condition of others, he would learn how little the attention of others is attracted by himself. Certainly the virulent, emphatic, black and white condemnatory judgment I have for myself is shared by few or none. I am not a murderer.

I started my counselling session pleased by my weekend away and social encounters, yet dissatisfied. There must be more to life than this. I work hard, on getting those photos, that one in particular, right, and especially on my writing. And thinking- when I am not writing, I am thinking things through. Ideas percolate within me.

I am hard on myself. Making this statement- I worked hard on that– I don’t know if I am learning to be less hard on myself generally, or in specific instances. Possibly both. “There must be more to life than this!” Well, I don’t see what, and don’t know if that is because my blind spots obscure it, or there is nothing there.

-Is there anything you would like to do again, or have a go at? she asks.
-No. Should there be?

-Why are you bored?
-From lack of stimulus, and loneliness.
-Where might you find it?
-in Love. But I fear the outside world, everything outside my living room.
-Why?
-Because of experience.
-Any particular experiences?
-All of it, from childhood and adulthood.

This great amorphous mass of greyness frightens me in itself. Everything? Are there any shards of light in the gloom? As she points out, sometimes I overcome my fear because I want to do something. I engage with the outside world, and sometimes the experience is positive for me. It might be worth analysing and categorising my experience a little more.

-Have you seen the Jungle book vultures?

I have just been to look. Oops.

-Would you join a club?

I thought of joining a writers’ group. There is one in Swanston, and I have the email address of the man who runs it, but have not done anything about that.

-Of course not, because a writing group would open you to rejection and criticism. Reciting your poetry was a lesser risk. Do you critique others?

Yes, but in a spirit of offering possibilities, rather than dogmatism. I am gentle. My experience of the judgment of others does not fit my fear of it- I fear the Granite Statues, unbending, remorseless, utterly condemning. Others are not like that in my experience yet I still fear it.

She tells me that those who are afraid of the World are usually afraid of themselves. Once you accept yourself you can engage better. But, what are other people actually like? How could I ever know?