Bad things happen to good people

Things at the moment are not as I might have hoped, and my friend Anne said, things happen which seem bad at the time, and then after you have a good experience, and you realise that that good experience would not have happened but for the experience you called bad. And I find this view ridiculous, repellant, a tempting falsehood.

Good things happen, good things happen all the time. Who is to say that, had I not had this unpleasing experience, I might not have had a string of far more wonderful experiences following on each other? After this experience, I think my situation is worse. So I think Anne’s view is a false way of finding blessing in a bad situation. The bad experience has not caused the good experience, and might have prevented better experiences.

I am all for finding the Blessing in every situation. What I think of as a bad experience may lead me to find strengths within myself which I had not previously called upon, or see opportunities which I would not otherwise have taken. But I do not want to sugar the pill by claiming a blessing where none is. 

Even if every hair on my head is numbered, that does not mean that everything which happens to me is part of a divine plan, blessing, test, correction or encouragement. I think the lesson is, I have been floored before, and have survived it. So I have found a way through, and I hope I may this time too. But, Now, I want to see clearly where I am, and consider my options, not seek out any consolation unless I can clearly and confidently pronounce it to be True.

And then, I read this Hafiz/ Ladinsky poem:

This place where you are right now
God circled on a map for you.

Wherever your eyes and arms and heart can move
Against the earth and sky
The Beloved has bowed there-

Our Beloved has bowed there knowing
you were coming.

Now wash your hands

In Orpington Quaker Meeting House, there is a damp towel in the loos to wipe my hands on. So, if I go to the loo and wash my hands, any gut bacteria I miss I wipe onto the towel, which is damp, to join gut bacteria from everyone else who has wiped their hands on it. I will get a few back. That damp towel is as good a culture medium as one can get outside a petri dish. And, I hear, if the lid is left up when you flush the loo, an aerosol of the liquid inside it rises up and circulates round the room, including that damp towel. If I wipe them there, the last state of my hands will be worse than the first.

I understand peanuts in a bowl for sharing are a great way of sharing urinary tract infections.

My colleague in the hospital was very concerned that she had to see people on the wards suffering from MRSA, but actually all the precautions, such as disposable aprons and intense hand washing, were to protect the patient rather than me. I had to do the handwashing in a sink where unless I took great care the water sprayed over my clothes: ready to drip off, or be breathed in by the hapless patient. A nurse told me that properly drying my hands was most important, as the tiniest droplets can just shake off. My own healthy immune system is quite capable of dealing with these bugs, until it is not. With Superstaph, the patient’s wasn’t.

On home visits, I always take a cup of tea if offered. It is in the giving and receiving of hospitality that we build trust, and anyway, the mugs in the office are far more disgusting than anything in anyone’s kitchen.

Offence and oppression

That I find transphobic comments “offensive” is not the objectionable thing about them. The objectionable thing is that they are oppressive.

Offence, after all, is a two way street. A cis-sexual white male can be genuinely offended by a gay person picking him up on his thoughtlessly heteronormative way of expressing himself. If offending someone were the criterion for being objectionable, then the “political correctness” of the gay person is equally objectionable.

However, heteronormative language reinforces the idea of gay people as less than normal, pitiable, different, other. It oppresses us. Oppression is a bad thing. My objection opposes that oppression. This is a good thing. It promotes equality, it promotes freedom for everyone, because “Normal is what everyone else is and you are not“.

Hat tip to Genderbitch, who (to my regret) is taking a rest from blogging at the moment, for this one.

What of the person who says I am in denial, that I am simply a man? That person is ignoring the growing body of evidence that I am not; privileging the hypothesis that I am male, so ignoring other hypotheses; and rejecting my own assertion, after years of denial and self-examination and a deep commitment to Truth, that I am female. I have answered that question for myself. I am female. Another’s assertion that I am male, however passionate or articulate, holds no terrors for me, as it is simply wrong. But remembering how painful I found such assertions in the past, I have a particular hatred for them.

Inspired writing

The writer of Eccelesiastes in the Bible was aware of some of the psalms, and mocked them.

Consider these two verses. First, Psalm 37:25:

I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, or their children begging bread.

Then, Ecclesiastes 7:15:

In my vain life I have seen everything: there are righteous people who perish in their righteousness, and there are wicked people who prolong their life in their evildoing.

 I think the parallels between these two verses are too great for this to be coincidence. Qoheleth had read the psalm, and said that it is Wrong.

If the Bible is inspired by God, this cannot mean that it is inerrant, because it contradicts itself. Rather, it is human beings struggling to express the truth as best they may understand it, struggling with life and with setbacks: how can God’s Chosen People be invaded and conquered? Sometimes, they get it wrong in an interesting way.

Sometimes, in wrestling with the contradictions and the bits I do not like, I gain a greater understanding. A good example is Psalm 137:8-9:

Happy shall they be who pay you back for what you have done to us! Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!

Killing babies. There are schemes for praying the psalms over a period which omit the cursing psalms, of which this verse is one of the most shocking. And yet, having been aware of it for a time, I find it one of my favourite verses. I find it reassuring. The very depths of human rage and despair are expressed here, and so in some way found acceptable. Even when I am swallowed whole by misery and anger, I am not rejected by God.

Sgian dubh

from Wikipedia

In The Two Drovers by Walter Scott, an Englishman thumps a Scot. The Scot’s honour is impugned, so he gets his black knife (so called because it is hidden) and stabs his friend to death. If we all carried knives in our socks, in the six o’clock commute on the Tube, packed like sardines, perhaps no-one would get out alive. Yet in Rob Roy, set in 1715, Scott shows the elaborate courtesy of the Highlanders, necessary in a society where every man carries a blade; and the contempt they have for the lowlanders who have no blades, or fighting skill.

When I presented male, and wore a kilt for country dancing, I carried a sgian dubh with no thought of self-defence, and indeed we have seemed to get this civilisation thing, living together in conurbations of ten million with surprisingly few murders. And yet we still have anger and hatred, which we exorcise vicariously through sporting contests, or by “kicking the cat”, picking on a safe target where the true object of our rage is too frightening to contemplate.

All that energy, dissipated; or turned inwards to self-hatred and depression; or turned outwards, to the effusion of blood. I want to use that energy, constructively, in my own interests (which are pacific- connection, creation, love). A good step forward is seeking not to be so frightened of it.

Shadow

There is a part of the self which is natural, spontaneous and free-flowing. She may be suppressed under a conventional conformity. When so suppressed, she appears evil, because she chafes against the conformity, and resists it, which the ego finds frightening. The ego has adopted conventionality under great pressure, and sees no other way. When she can be freed, the spontaneous self is powerful and beautiful, because she is loving and creative.

Calm down, dear

In one day I wept helplessly; expressed my anger in the office and told Paul he was an idiot, rather than just getting on and doing the work as usual; pressed the accelerator when I really should have pressed the brake, then thought that really was not sensible; and had an irrational, paranoid fear reaction. I have also been acting impulsively. So now I am back on hormones.

Russel Reid first prescribed the sweeties, as we called them, as a diagnostic test. He told me that he saw a lot of people only once. We self-diagnose as transsexual and find our way to the gender psychiatrist, and Russel always gave us what we asked for. He said, faced with actually taking hormones, the confused fantasist usually stopped. For those of us for whom transition was so completely Right, we came back. We diagnosed ourselves. I think Uncle Russel was right, and was very grateful for the prescription at the time I needed it, but he retired after questions of his conduct were raised before the General Medical Council.

Then the endocrinologist confirmed the recommendation that I take these, to promote female secondary sex characteristics. And I have just carried on taking them. One pharmacist decided to warn me that mine was a particularly high dose for HRT, but then, I am not taking HRT: it is very similar, but I think the differences are important. I am taking oestradiol as a treatment for transsexualism syndrome.

And ten years afterwards, another GP told me that HRT increased the risk of breast cancer, so she wanted me to stop. And I did. Then I lost half a stone, started having the mood swings, associated them with the hormonal changes, and after one particular paranoid and impulsive act begged for more oestrogen.

So now I am taking oestradiol again, and thinking of coming off it more gradually to keep the moods in check. I am more worried about thromboses than cancer, but do not want either. I think the oestradiol has done all it can to produce the secondary characteristics. I wonder if this is what women go through, emotionally, in pre-menstrual syndrome.

A Hierarchy of Oppression

This is a lovely hobby. I find blogs, leave comments, people find me, and I judge how well I am doing by the interest I generate in what I write: how many page views I have. So I commented on Nicky’s blog, and found I was getting a lot of page views from a blog called twanzphobia. That blog protests that almost all AMAB transfolk are perverts and dangerous to real women, and those who are not should get psychotherapy to accept their penises and gender non-conformity. To which I respond, if I choose to alter my body, that is none of their business. Show the proof that transsexualism is genetic, demands Twanzphobia. Easily done, just have a look on Wikipedia. More evidence is being discovered all the time.

On a page called “tackle status”, saying whether AMAB trans bloggers had had the operation or not, Nicky wrote, “I found you another twanz blogger posted a comment on my blog. You may want to take a look at his so called woman like pictures” and Twanzmooselike (sic) replies “Nicky you poor thing. You must find better friends! How very sad this blogger thinks language can change the fact of his biology. Sex: Male.”

Actually, this is more ridiculous than offensive. Nicky is out as an intersex person. Some intersex folk look down on transsexual people. “No, we’re not weirdos like them,” they say, “we have a genuine physical condition”. Perhaps they feel threatened by bi-gendered society, and want to avoid the prejudice they experience from ignorant cis-sexuals. But the way to do it is not to collude with oppression of another group.

I have heard similar comments from transsexual people. They say, “I am a transsexual woman, I have a physical condition, not like those transvestites at all. They are perverts, I have a medical condition.”

Seeking to ally with thoughtless oppression, and thereby escape oppression yourself, increases oppression, draws attention to your own- abnormality, for want of a better word- and fails to prevent mockery. It is a way to increase your own fear, self-hatred and lack of worth. Nicky, I wish you could see the world as it is, not through the prism of your own spite, hatred, bile and pain.

The suggestion that I should express myself as genderqueer rather than seeming to conform to the bi-gendered norm has little weight. I twist and play with gender all the time. So do a lot of straight cis-gendered people. And I do not need to justify my decisions to anyone. I express myself this way because I find it fulfilling. I express my liberation, which anyone may take for themselves.

Understanding

Every child has known God…
The God who only knows four words,
and keeps repeating them, saying,
Come, dance with me
Come, dance.

This was the first Hafiz poem I heard, and I loved it, and wanted to hear more. It is rendered into English poetry by Daniel Ladinsky. Compare and contrast

For our concern was speech, and speech impelled us
To purify the dialect of the tribe
and urge the mind to aftersight and foresight

This comes from the second movement of Little Gidding. The monkey mind’s continual searching of past and future rather than being in Now might be thought of as a search for “Aftersight and foresight”.

I see these artists as naming here two equal ways of being, yin and yang. I had a rationalist phase, when I thought anything might be explained and understood, and then mysticism began to appeal to me, began to seem more than woo-woo gibberish, and I began to value being without words, stilling the mind, being in the moment.

And now I seek to get the full benefit which words and arguments can give me. They can take me to the verge of Unknowing, into which I can just jump off. But they just might protect me from that which might fool my mystic side, might have the appearance of truth. There is a constant I, that part within my skin that Wants; and what it wants is fulfilment, whatever that might mean; life in all its fulness, love and truth. Connection with others. And this I journeys on using better the tools in me to find these things, tools of rational judging and evaluating with words, and tools of spontaneous relating and responding. Rational analysis can see things which spontaneous relating cannot. Spontaneous relating can see things which rational analysis cannot. Behind all is the drive of desire.

Gender studies

I got the phrase “sex is genetic; gender is cultural” from The Feminist Files, by a student from North Carolina inspired to make a difference in the world. Apart from in grammar, I had not previously understood the use of the word gender and I am grateful.

My caveats: I am the one who gets to say what sex I am, and the sex I have been at all times in my life. I am and have been female. “Sex is physical, gender is cultural” would be more assonant; sex is physical, involving brain structure and genes as well as gonads.

And gender is a cultural phenomenon in that it is my cultural expression of something innate. Had I had two X chromosomes and a male outward appearance, if gender were merely cultural I would have grown up happily male, conformed to my upbringing, expressing maleness culturally as my society and family expected, more or less. There is something there in me which I express culturally, something “feminine”. I like flowery skirts, crystal pendants and long, dangly earrings.

Feminism here has won the campaigns to get women rights to go to university and vote, and is winning equal respect at work. It can now be in part about acceptance of the widest range of cultural expression of gender, liberating people to choose to express ourselves however we wish, neutrois and gynandrous as well as all aspects of male and female.