Blogging

I said I would post again on 31 August.

About 500 words daily for five years has been good for me, and now the next thing I post here I want to be more complex and develop a story, so writing it will take longer. I will be back. I have had some powerful affirmation at the Greenbelt festival, and I will tell you about it. Perhaps even all about it.

What does “cis” mean?

Well, it depends what “trans” means.

First, cis means not trans, as in trans-lunar or cis-lunar (this side of the moon), or cis-trans isomerism in organic chemistry; and not trans as in cis woman. The term prevents people othering us. Unless it is relevant, refer to a “woman” or a “person”- if trans status is really relevant, women are cis women or trans women. The only alternative is some variation of real v fake, or normal v queer. Yes you are a woman, but some are more woman than you– whether because they menstruate, or because of their upbringing, or for some other criterion you cannot possibly fulfil. Or, you are not a woman.

Cissexual has a clear meaning. It means someone has not physically transitioned from one sex to the other- though some deny that is possible. Someone who has not had SRS, then, and does not want it- because I was transsexual before my operation, because I wanted it. Cisgendered is more difficult. Everyone breaks gender rules. No-one is happy with all gender stereotypes. We express different parts of our personalities at different times, and when in purely professional role might be agendered, as in the moment of a doctor performing a physical examination. The doctor is still a man or a woman, but that does not matter.

If cis means “not trans”, then if we want a big tent, to include and affirm as many potentially trans people as possible, it becomes more difficult to say someone is definitely excluded, because everyone is redefining and influencing gender roles. Roles do not stay the same, not even “Biblical” understandings of gender roles, but are continually reinterpreted.

And yet if “cis” does not have a precise meaning, it still has use as a generalisation. If someone does not identify as trans, then calling them cis is no insult. Some of us fight gender stereotypes in this particular way. No radical feminist denies she is a woman.

None of this is clear cut. It resists clear definitions. I was rebuked for using the word “transsexual”- it implies that you need to have, or want, surgery to be proper trans, she said. Well, I want the big tent, and no-one should be required to undergo sterilisation before they can have gender recognition; but she can assert that without disparaging or erasing my experience. We are trans in different ways. No-one’s way of being trans means that some other way is impermissible or inauthentic. And no-one should disparage other ways of being trans, in an attempt to be accepted. Some cis people accept trans people, and some cis people do not; but no cis person imagines that one way of being trans is acceptable and real and other ways are not.

I started on this line inspired by Julia Serano again, but have gone off on my own line. She is worth reading. It is my current intention to blog again on 31 August, though it is possible I will before then.

William Blake Ruth, the dutiful daughter in law

At school

Some beautiful things I learned at primary school have made a lasting impression. I remember single lines of poetry. In The Bat, it was “And Oh! A little one, that clings!” They are still worth reading:

Lightless, unholy, eldrich thing,
whose murky and erratic wing
swoops so sickeningly, and whose
aspect to the female muse
is a demon’s, made of stuff
like tattered, sooty, waterproof,
looking dirty, clammy, cold
Wicked poisonous, and old;
I have maligned thee!… for the cat
lately caught a little bat,
seized it softly, bore it in.
On the carpet, dark as sin.
In the lamplight, painfully
it limped about and could not fly.
Even fear must yield to love,
and pity make the depths to move.
Though sick with horror, I must stoop,
Grasp it gently, take it up,
And carry it, and place it where
It could resume the twilight air.
Strange Revelation! Warm as milk.
Clean as flower, smooth as silk!
O what piteous face it appears
What great, fine, thin, translucent ears
What chesnut down and crapy wing?
Finer than any lady’s things
And oh a little one that clings!
Warm, clean, and lovely, though not fair.
And burdened with a mother’s care;
Go hunt the hurtful fly, and bear
my blessing to your kind in air.

In this one, “Take hold of the Loam”.  Sylvia Plath, plotting a takeover:

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.

I thought that was grass. I had forgotten it was mushrooms. I remembered the sense of Love and beauty, strength and silence.

In secondary school, the rollicking drama of Bagpipe Music grabbed my attention:

If you break the bloody glass, you won’t hold up the weather.
If you break the bloody glass, you won’t hold up the weather.

On bullshit

That debate on abortion was utterly depressing. Some people are disgusted that anyone could force a woman to incubate an unwanted foetus for nine months, with all the physical and emotional pain that involves. Pregnancy takes a toll on a woman’s body. Others say that cluster of cells is a potential human life, and are disgusted that human life could be expunged. Debates on whether anyone can be “pro-life” without being anti-gun, anti-capital punishment and anti-war, or whether legal prohibition or better family planning services are the best way to avoid abortion, draw dividing lines little different from the main one on pro-life v pro-choice. This does not stop us hurling ourselves against each other. “I find you disgusting- and so should everyone else!” We try to win. Possibly, we will not even co-operate on having a useful conversation- finding any excuse to blame or condemn the other- but we can define what a useful conversation would look like.

Petter A Naessan: Speakers and listeners assume that the others abide by certain, predominantly unstated, speech norms. The cooperative principle can be divided more specifically into the maxims of quantity, quality, relevance, and manner. For bullshitological purposes, the violation of the maxims would appear to be relevant. So if utterances convey not enough or too much information (quantity), are intentionally false or lack evidence (quality), are irrelevant to any current topic or issue (relevance), and are obscure, ambiguous, unnecessarily wordy or disorderly (manner), then they make our conversation valueless, apart from giving transitory feelings of triumph or despair giving way to ennui.

The bullshit of politicians is a threat to public order and the public good. The disaster of Brexit is being achieved by bullshit. Both the liar and the bullshitter try to get away with something. But ‘lying’ is perceived to be a conscious act of deception, whereas ‘bullshitting’ is unconnected to a concern for truth. Frankfurt regards this ‘indifference to how things really are’, as the essence of bullshit. Furthermore, a lie is necessarily false, but bullshit is not – bullshit may happen to be correct or incorrect. The crux of the matter is that bullshitters hide their lack of commitment to truth. Since bullshitters ignore truth instead of acknowledging and subverting it, bullshit is a greater enemy of truth than lies.

Stephen Poole in The Guardian: Trump is merely the most energetic current exploiter of a fact that modern politicians have long known: the media is broken, and you can mercilessly exploit its flaws to your own benefit. (That, after all, is what “spin doctors” are for.) If you repeat a lie often enough, then that claim becomes the story, and it’s what most people remember. And a structural confusion between “impartiality” and “balance” undermines the mission to inform of institutions such as the BBC. To be impartial would be to point out untruths wherever they come from. But to be “balanced” is to have a three-way between a presenter and two economists on opposite sides of some question. Never mind that one economist represents the views of 95% of the profession and the other is an ideologically blinkered outlier: the structure of the interview itself implies to the audience that the arguments are evenly divided.

Petter Naessan reviewing On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt in Philosophy Now.
Stephen Poole: “How we let the phoneys take control and debase the language of politics,” in The Guardian.

Blake, Pestilence

Personality

Other people think differently from me. I may not realise that. I may just generalise from my own thoughts and feelings, imagining others feel the same way, or project my feelings onto them. I want to understand more. That means learning how they think.

There are countless ways to differentiate one person from the next, but psychological scientists have settled on a relatively simple taxonomy, known widely as the Big Five:

Extroversion: gregariousness, social dominance, enthusiasm, reward-seeking behavior

Neuroticism: anxiety, emotional instability, depressive tendencies, negative emotions

Conscientiousness: industriousness, discipline, rule abidance, organization

Agreeableness: warmth, care for others, altruism, compassion, modesty

Openness: curiosity, unconventionality, imagination, receptivity to new ideas

I got that from The Atlantic on Mr Trump. My friend’s hands shook so badly for some weeks that I poured the tea for him: his psychiatrist labelled this an “Adjustment disorder”, a physical symptom of adverse circumstances. When there is no chance of changing the thing, and rather than serenity most people would feel long term shock and terror, “Pull yourself together” is the response.

Here’s a post on Personality change. Personality may change because we want it to, or because of brain injury or illness.

I am worried about that situation, and I should really pass it on to those people. The trouble is, I do not trust them. They are not like X, so I think of them as less. And- I do nothing, because I am not certain that what I imagine an optimal result will happen- but doing nothing may be worse. What do they think? What would they think? What would they do?

I want greater empathy. This is an introverted person. This is an authoritarian person. My moral judgment of good and bad gets in the way of understanding, and I am too quick to see something as bad, rather than different.

And I am paralysed from acting when “success” is too important to me. Rather than trying something in the hope of making things better I want to do something which will make things right. That’s impossible, so I do nothing.

Trump is a rich source of material on personality difference. Here’s Emily Thorson: those interested in politics are, on the whole, ideologically consistent. People who are ideologically consistent hold beliefs that line up with each other as we’d assume in modern party politics: For example, a liberal who supports gay marriage probably also supports government spending on social programs and protecting the environment.

Many of us intuitively believe that there is something “right” about these particular combinations of beliefs—that a liberal or conservative ideology reflects an underlying and internally coherent worldview. While that is not entirely wrong, it is also the case that our beliefs about which issues “go together” are shaped by political elites’ efforts to establish winning electoral coalitions. People not interested in politics aren’t “consistent” in this way.

Blake, the three Marys at the Sepulchre

Ridiculous

“I am ridiculous,” I said, and my cis friend demurred: won’t other trans folk object? It means “absurd- deserving derision or mockery”. You can’t say that! “Ridiculous”- a “man in a dress”- no, perfectly normal, part of ordinary, beautiful human diversity. A trans woman. It’s OK to be me.

Am I being cissexist, considering myself as an Outsider from a cisnormative perspective? Possibly that’s part of it. I am cissexist. I have grown up in a cissexist culture, and imbibed its notions. And it’s not just that. My inner critic’s concept of normality is a hard steel block with a lead core for extra weight, unmoving, unrelenting. It doesn’t only object to me expressing myself female, it objects to much of my emotional reaction and spontaneous response. For me, “feel the fear and do it anyway” includes “see it’s ridiculous and enjoy it anyway”.

There are other ways to respond to my inner voices. I can talk to them sensibly. I can explain this is OK, that I have a perfect right to do what I want to do, and that takes time and effort and does not really convince me because it is a feeling thing. Or I can answer “What will people think?” fears with I don’t care. Some of them will disapprove, and some will disapprove strongly. I am safe enough. It is OK to be ridiculous. If dressing colourfully, doing things that please me and having fun are ridiculous, perforce I must be ridiculous.

Or- it’s a way of coping. I find coping difficult, so any way of coping has to be a good thing. Tell me of the ways of coping that work for you, and I may try them; but don’t tell me not to cope in the way I know how.

Oberon, Titania and Puck with fairies dancing

Transsexual

I got told not to use the word transsexual. It is objectionable. It somehow implies that those who transition should have GRS. The word is “trans”; that includes all of us, and what is between our legs is no-one’s business but ours and our partners’. A girl-cock, a hyperenlarged clitoris, or whatever you call it, is OK.

Do you feel less than others? Do you feel a nagging suspicion that real trans women know they are women, and so find the thought of having a penis unbearable? Alternatively, do you feel that you were forced by social pressure into having The Operation by doctors, transsexuals and the general public while you might not have had it, if you had had a completely free choice?

Do you feel less than others? Does the existence of another group of people, which appears to share some characteristics with you but be very different in some ways, somehow make you inauthentic or less entitled to be who you are, do what you want- or do you have nagging doubts that might be so?

The answer is not to lash out, and say it’s the other group that have got it wrong, they are the ones who should change, or demand that they do not mention their difference from you as they should be ashamed of it. That just divides people. We can be allies. We should be able to sympathise with another’s desires and support their rights, while not feeling the same.

I regret the operation. I would like to be able to swive heterosexual women. I suppose being told not to utter the word “transsexual”- or TS- is better than being held up as fool and victim. I wanted it at the time. My path to self-acceptance led through the Operation, and I am not sure “there was another road you did not see”. Though if I were sure of that, it would be sair to thole.

It was as it was.
I am where I am.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

You see I have this huge uncertainty. There is another group, like me in some respects, unlike me in others- and I know they have this difference, though I cannot be certain that they have that advantage and I do not know what disadvantages they may have. Producing my own hormones and not using synthetic ones, my emotional lability might be less: so I could ascribe all sorts of imaginary advantages to the door you did not open– while I am at it, I would be in work, the desire to present female would have passed, I would have three children-

as always with these fantasies, I would not exist and someone else would be in my place.

Guilt, resentment, yearning, shame- I am overwhelmed by these feelings as I always have been, I cast around for ways of escape which instead intensify them. However. I am transsexual. I am not going to keep quiet about that just cos someone tells me to.

Blake, the inscription

Female Embodiment fantasies

It is a common erotic fantasy among people with testicles to imagine themselves with women’s bodies- men, as well as M-Fs. Julia Serano calls these “Female embodiment fantasies”.

There is a huge range of sexual fantasies. In fantasy you are completely in control- if in my fantasy I am being “dominated” I still choose what the Domme will do. We fantasise about things we would never do- murder fantasies gave some relief to me, and to far more people than the number of actual murderers. So people cannot be classified by our fantasies. When I fantasise about doing something, or having something done to me, I fantasise about my body, and I fantasised about my body being female or being made to appear female from my mid teens. The fantasy aroused me sexually. Now I have attained my female body, with my breasts and vagina, expressing myself feminine, I have fewer such fantasies. Because I am attracted to women, I am more likely to fantasise about women’s bodies sexually- my own, or my fantasy partner’s- than androphilic trans women.

Cis women have this fantasy too. Serano argues this is because our culture is so male-centric: women are judged on their sexual attractiveness, and objectified. She does not comment on gay men’s fantasies.

I first read about FEFs through the site Transsexual Women’s Resources, run by Anne Lawrence. She had useful gen on various vaginoplasty surgeons, and the essay Men trapped in men’s bodies, now expanded into a book. It explained the theory of autogynephilia, the theory that lesbian trans women transitioned because of these fantasies. We fantasised so much about being women that we sought surgery to reify our fantasies. Serano says, and I agree, that we should cease to use the term “autogynephilia” because it has been associated with the theory that these fantasies cause gender dysphoria. That theory is merely silly. One fantasises about what one finds erotic, not about random things which then become erotic. Why would a man without gender dysphoria imagine himself to be a woman? Gender dysphoria causes FEFs, not the other way around. Or at least, correlation does not prove causation. Without clear evidence to the contrary, it is more likely that dysphoria causes female embodiment fantasy.

The term “autogynephilia” pathologises trans women’s experience, and conceptualises the fantasy as the cause of the dysphoria. The term FEF describes it. As the fantasy is unlikely to cause the dysphoria, the term autogynephilia should not be used. I now have a page called “autogynephilia”, which I may rewrite completely: for that page should describe what is, and spend less time describing what is not. I may rename the page, too, but right now the false term is well known and recognisable; I want the term female embodiment fantasy to eclipse it. The words we use to describe things are so powerful!

“Crossdreaming” is the other word for the fantasies. That word decouples the fantasy from the action of transition: crossdreamers may transition, or may not.

I heard of Julia‘s term from Joanna Santos through T-Central, the portal for trans blogs where you can find all kinds of trans experience.

I am grateful to Calie of T-Central for sharing this post. Her sharing gets me far more publicity than I would otherwise get. And- by eck you’re a shy lot. Comment! Like! Let us encourage each other!

Blake, Wise and foolish virgins

Are you a criminal?

Are you a liar? Can you prove you are not?

I have claimed free prescriptions for as long as I have been entitled. Now, I find leaflets on the counter at the pharmacist, so I take one.

Claiming free prescriptions?

If you claim free NHS prescriptions that you’re not entitled to, you could be facing a penalty charge of up to £100 – as well as the original prescription charge(s). An additional charge of up to £50 may apply if you do not pay within the required timescale.

This is the first thing in the leaflet, repeated inside. I feel insulted and victimised. I claim honestly. Why accuse me of theft without evidence? Because no-one claiming benefits can be trusted.

If you’re sure that the NHS covers the cost of your prescriptions, please show proof of your entitlement to the pharmacy or practice staff before signing the patient declaration.

This has been Government policy since at least 2014, but pharmacists objected. This move to make pharmacists police the Government’s unfair charging system is totally unacceptable to us. Our job is to put the needs of vulnerable people first and make sure they get the care they need. Unfortunately, the presence of the threatening leaflet may indicate a change. Pharmacists may have an incentive, now.

Over a billion prescriptions are dispensed each month in England, rising from 725m in July 2007. 90% are free. The current charge is £8.40. It was £8.05 in 2014. £150m a year would then be 18.6m fraudulent prescription claims out of ten billion (I get 26 prescriptions a year). That is a tiny percentage. Compare tax avoiders.

The NHS Counter Fraud service assumes guilt until proof of innocence. Members of the public should phone if they think anything is amiss. It investigates professionals as well as patients claiming free prescriptions, and habitually exaggerates their crimes: Ipaishe Charuma took a mental health nursing diploma, and then earned £51,000 as a nurse. Had her work been substandard, she would have been sacked earlier, yet their site claims those earnings as the proceeds of fraud. Her fraud concerned false claims about her immigration status, and not her qualifications.

By 2018 there will be a database for pharmacists to check entitlement.

Becoming trans II

How I became transsexual.

My mother was intensely controlling. The only way I could assert control myself was over what I ate, so I refused most things: I refused all potato apart from chips, and ate rissoles or beefburgers, beans and chips most evenings. She made all my clothes. Most people learn their accent from those around them, as my sister did, but I spoke with an English accent like my mother, not an Argyll one. My father did too. You could argue that as a primary school teacher he should speak with a neutral accent to appear professional and model the Queens English for potential professional people, but Scots sound Scots, except him. Then she died, and someone asked me why I spoke with an English accent, when my father’s Scots accent was lovely.

I want to prove it to you, so you cannot deny it, and I imagine you challenging the paucity of my evidence and my understanding, and laughing, and- I would become miserable like a child, who does not know the pain will end.

I did not do teenage properly. I never rebelled. In my thirties I decided it was time to do teenage, and get rid of attitudes I had not questioned.

Those horrid words! My father was “pussy-whipped”. My mother “wore the trousers”. My father alluded to this, calling my mother “The Boss”, and expressing delight seeing her drive off in her nurse’s uniform, so purposeful, going to sort things out. Yet I learned that this was Very Bad Indeed, that boys don’t cry, and that I needed to make a man of myself. It’s like a woman I met born in the Ukraine to Ukrainian parents, who came to the UK when a child. When they ate dinner together, they spoke English, because they were in England and it was essential to speak English.

This is a way women and men are together! Not all of them, it is a minority taste, though how minority I don’t know because it seems so condemned! It is Unmanly! It is Unfeminine! The men are pansies, probably poofters, and the women termagants, viragos, harridans. I had a conversation with a man whose current girlfriend wanted him to be “more manly” and who had decided to try: he would put on an act, rather than behave spontaneously and freely. Another man I met had quite a passive girlfriend and a hard manner, and when I met him the second time he had dumped her, and seemed far gentler, as well as more relaxed and humorous. A woman has a soft boyfriend and wants him to make a move, make it a relationship; and I think, but he wants you to make the move! He wants you to take control, really.

A lesbian wrote that the straights were at it in high school, but she had to wait until University before discovering sex. I still haven’t got an idea how to get together with a compatible woman. My mother died and my father went out looking for a partner- he found one within 18 months, and eventually married. Yet, I don’t know what the rules are, I am just learning what I want and don’t know how to get it. Concepts like “dominant women” or “sissies” get in the way, playing on the sense of humiliation of the man who is stripped of “manliness”, and made something weird and ridiculous rather than natural and normal and with valuable gifts for a family and society. I am not aware of fictional portrayals of such relationships working well- perhaps Stuart and Ann on LA Law, and all I can really put my finger on is that she is taller– and very few of them being disastrous. I might go back to Walter Scott. There’s a wife there who knows how to manage her husband, let him make little decisions and managing him into making the big ones as she wishes.

When I left University I had no idea what my feelings were,

I am perfectly calm

and a desperate need to Make a Man of Myself, and a very narrow idea of what that Manliness should look like. And female embodiment fantasies which I felt deeply ashamed of, and a habit of buying women’s clothes and then getting rid of them every month or two, and shame about that; and wet dreams about cross-dressing, also shameful. Even now I feel guilt and shame about just about everything. Saying these things here is my way of trying to make them bearable. I saw a psychiatrist and chose to have aversion therapy, after which I almost gave up dressing female.

To be continued.