Choosing transition

Princess CĂ©cile Murat Ney d'Elchingen (1867-1960), by Giovanni BIn 1991, I had aversion therapy.

I was presenting male, had no thought of transition, in fact self-identified as transvestite. I had not told anyone of this, and felt great shame. So I would buy women’s clothes compulsively and wear them, and I thought, well, I have a stressful job, if this is how I manage to relax, why not? It does no-one any harm. Then, after a week or so, I would throw them out, thinking, I am a man, this is unmanly and I do not want to be unmanly, so I will stop. Either of these positions seemed entirely sensible and acceptable to me. What I could not bear was oscillating madly between them. I lost count of the times I bought clothes and then threw them away.

So I saw my GP, who referred me to a psychiatrist, privately. The psychiatrist thought that I had transsexual tendencies, but nevertheless referred me to a psychologist who offered me the choice: we could work together to try and make me feel more comfortable with cross-dressing, or he could give aversion therapy. And I chose aversion therapy.

I stood in front of a huge mirror, in underwear then in a dress, while they sat behind me. One told me how ridiculous I looked, one told me how disgusted everyone- family, friends, colleagues, strangers- would be if they saw me, and how no-one could ever be attracted to me, looking like that. Then I dressed male again, left the clothes with them to dispose of, and did not dress again for six months.

After six months I saw the psychologist again, and he was impressed with how I had not lapsed in six months- and I took this, ridiculously, as permission to lapse.

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In 1996, I decided I did not want to be a sad, lonely pervert: I wanted to be a happy, gregarious pervert. So I bought myself a wig, and joined the local TV/TS club.

There, I met Fiona, a TV who went out and about, who took me off for several weekends on her boat on the Norfolk Broads, and Barbara, who introduced me to the Sibyls. I had some wonderful weekends with the Sibyls, where on Saturday night we would put on our evening dresses and drink lots of wine and have earnest conversations about intention to transition and how frightening it was and was it really the right thing to do? And at the Northern Concord I felt a lot of the people were blokes down the pub, who happened to be dressed rather strangely, and I felt different from them. Through them I found the Metropolitan Community Church, which helped me to learn that I was acceptable to God with my idiosyncrasy, and there I met Carol, my first girlfriend with whom I had dressed female, and (not coincidentally) the first relationship I had which lasted more than two months.

I did not like my body hair, so I shaved it, and being unpractised at this, made two long scratches down the tendons on the backs of my hands. My colleague asked how I had done that, and so I went to her office and told her. It was so wonderful just to tell someone. She sympathised, rather than judged. It started to show me that the harshest judgments were in myself, not in others.

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Lina BilitisWhen I was considering transition, in 2000, I read that there was a distinction between primary and secondary transsexuals. Primary TSs were core TSs, who knew that something was wrong aged three, knew what it was aged five, might be smaller and more lightly built, looked female, and were attracted to men. They transitioned young. Secondary transsexuals transitioned in middle age or later, passed less well, and, worse, might be attracted to women. Some still used the repellent phrase “homosexual transsexual” for the male to female transsexual who was attracted to men: the phrase denies that the person is female. This categorisation did not really fit F-M TSs.

I think this is an attempt at categorisation on insufficient data, and also that it confuses the core phenomenon of transsexuality with individual human responses to it and the interaction of other characteristics. It was an attempt to understand and control the people seeking transition: which is of course much better than imagining that we are all deluded, and all should be refused.

But when I read that as a “True transsexual” or “Primary transsexual” I had to be attracted to men, it influenced me so that I denied that I was attracted to women. If I was not a true transsexual, it was obviously wrong for me to transition. I wanted to transition, and therefore I could not be attracted to women. Ridiculous as that is, I allowed it subconsciously to influence me for ten years after- until this, which ended like this.

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Giovinetta ErrazurizIn May 2000, I decided that I would do all I could to transition. I would seek a referral to a gender clinic, and see psychiatrists. And then I went to the Northern Concord and sat with the small group of transsexual people there, and hated them. Most did not have jobs. They seemed frightened and withdrawn. So, three days after deciding to transition, I decided I could not.

Later in May, I found my Inner Toddler, my “I Want”. This part of me had been suppressed in shadow, and in shadow it became something to fear. When I let her out she was Beautiful, though I still felt frightened of that energy.

I held a discussion between my male self, my female self, and my inner toddler, chaired by my inner rationalist. My inner toddler’s contribution was, “I want to wear skirts, and I want to walk down the street buying stuff”. Even though I thought when I decided to transition that my employer would find some unrelated excuse to sack me, wearing skirts was eventually more important. And that employer in fact supported me through my transition, and I worked for them for another four years before getting a better job in another organisation.

I had a great deal of counselling, mostly person centred, and the most valuable thing a counsellor ever said to me was “Of course you are transsexual!” And he frightened me off, and I did not see him again for another six months.

Eventually I realised that even if in five years’ time I would be trying to present male, transition was what I wanted Now, and trying it was the only way to work out whether it was right for me. I thought about autogynephilia, and secondary transsexualism, and decided that of the two questions “Am I transsexual?” and “Should I transition?” the second was the most important, and Yes was the answer I wanted.

And so at the end of November 2000, I went to my GP, and asked for a referral to a psychiatrist.

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I had things I had to do before I could transition. I wanted to make a good start on electrolysis, as shaving closely enough to go out dressed made my skin sensitive, and I needed in any event to let my facial hair grow for two days before it could be electrolysed. I had four hours of electrolysis a week. I wanted speech therapy, because my voice was one of the things most likely to get me read as TS.

I found the speech therapy very difficult. The therapist told me that rather than doing half an hour at a time, I should take a minute, say, on the stairs in the office, or going to work, with an exercise. This did my head in. It was already bad enough spending the weekend female, and then on Monday morning having to go into work presenting male. I was not easy to be with on Monday mornings. Then I would do a voice exercise, and connect to my female self at random times each day, then have to impose the male mask again. It was intolerable.

I woke at four am, which is never a good time to make a decision, thinking of my colleague Vicky. Vicky had noticed herself being “clumsy”, this had become serious enough for a referral to a neurologist, and three years after her diagnosis with MS she was in a wheelchair. And I felt such envy of her, because she was accepted as female, that I would have swapped places with her. So I thought, that is it, I have to transition as soon as I can. That was six weeks before I transitioned at work.

Now, I feel occasional pangs of envy of a well-dressed woman with a particularly gorgeous figure, but am happy in myself, on the whole.

Healing

Can I heal people, by laying on hands or channelling spirit?

I know that this will do people good. If I pay someone my full attention, express that I wish her well, and do something through which I communicate my intention to do her well, it will do good, by the placebo effect, which is scientifically proven and demonstrated and explicable. It feels to me that there is something more, that the action and intention taps into the Life Force, or Holy Spirit, or Love, or something beyond both of us which works healing. There are many people who believe in such healing, and practise various styles of Reiki, or with the Friends’ Fellowship of Healing or the Healing Trust. I could find numerous Bible passages saying this is a gift Christians share, and it is a Shamanic practice. Hippocrates felt his hands grow warm as he came to touch a patient.

It is what I want to do, and I feel enmeshed in the paradox- “There is no God. God exists.” Could I do it if I doubted it? Could I bring myself to say things, unless I believed the Something, greater than us both, was moving as It willed for our good?

Trying to live male, I was enmeshed in lies and evasions which I took into my heart, lies which I told myself and thought were true. Transitioning, I asserted my own Truth, that I am female, which I had experienced being repeatedly and utterly denied throughout my childhood, which denials still hurt me a little, especially when I perceive denials from other people (though eleven years on this hurts much less). Truth is the most important thing to me. Something that I can know and cling to as True.

So, could I practise some form of spiritual healing, even while harbouring some doubt that it was more than a placebo? Should I learn one or more of the plethora of complementary therapies which are not, all, proven by rational double-blind peer reviewed studies reported in reputable journals?

My attachment is to knowing, rather than to Truth per se, and- to having an understanding, to holding a Position. What can I do when half of me says, “Yes, this is true and beautiful and Right and my Calling” and half says, “No, sorry. It’s placebo.” Please tell me what you think.

Rilke, from letters to a young poet:

 I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

 And- my questing intelligence and wise friends may help me with the questions.

The Remnant

One of the most pernicious things in the Bible is the idea that only a Remnant will be saved. It makes sense in Isaiah, where the Assyrians, who murdered and enslaved whole populations, then assimilated them and destroyed original cultures, were a threat to the whole region. It makes a little sense in Romans 9:27, where a tiny church is surrounded by pagan sects, and Paul explicitly quotes Isaiah:

Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved; for the Lord will execute his sentence on the Earth quickly and decisively.

This is God in one of his most Old Testament moods. It helps to see it as descriptive not prescriptive: this is the way the world was, not the way the world ought to be.

The trouble comes when people who genuinely want to do right get all bothered about something of lesser importance- the filioque clause, the Assumption of the BVM, the nature of the Eucharist, whatever- and make their differences more important than they need be. Imagining themselves the embattled Remnant is the last stage of this, from which there is little chance of redemption.

So, in the Thirty Years’ War when Christians were slaughtering each other around the Reformation, each denied the Christianity of the other. Bloody Mary burned the martyrs named in Fox’s book. And I really think Christians can do better now. Because thoughts of being the Remnant contradict Jesus’ teachings. First Matthew 12:30, then Mark 9:40

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Whoever is not against us is for us.

These are inconsistent, you might think. What of all the people who are indifferent? They only make sense together if they are addressed to me alone. So, Jesus tells me I must be with him, or I will be doing harm; but when I look at other people, I should see them as friendly unless I have clear evidence otherwise. If I use the former verse to judge anyone else, I go against “Judge not, that ye be not judged”. It is only addressed to me, so I may consider my own conduct. Others must hear and interpret it for themselves.

Neil Peart:

The spaces in between
leave room
for you and I to grow

That is all I want to say on the Bible for the moment.

Two kinds of truth

Raymond Chandler:

There are two kinds of truth: the truth that lights the way and the truth that warms the heart. The first of these is science, and the second is art. Neither is independent of the other or more important than the other. Without art science would be as useless as a pair of high forceps in the hands of a plumber. Without science art would become a crude mess of folklore and emotional quackery. The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous.

From Wisdom Commons.

I think this works for heart and mind, emotional being and intellectual being, as well. My heart tells me my goals, and my mind tells me how to achieve them. Without my mind’s guidance, my heart would achieve nothing, and without my heart’s guidance, my mind would achieve misery. When I have driven one from consciousness, I have gone backwards so far that even I could not fail to see the need for it. When I have attempted to use one for the tasks of the other, I have failed, and the failure is a useful lesson. Heart and mind are the two wheels on my bicycle, and I am balancing better on it, the two engines on my plane, without which I would go in circles.

Welcome to Heaven

I ain’t gonna grieve my Lord no more:

Oh you’ll never go to Heaven
but don’t you fear
just look around
cos Heaven’s here

Look at the domes in Florence cathedral. On the roof of the dome of the Baptistery, there is a Last Judgment scene as clearly demarked as in John Martin’s Last Judgment.

detail

But in the Duomo it is less clear. There is Jesus, clearly in Judgment, and people who have, perhaps, come out of graves: and they are wandering, perhaps a little up hill, perhaps a little down hill, and Jesus allows it.

Kris K is probably not still here, listening, and that is OK because I am not reading his blog regularly either, but he challenged me, “I know where I’m going when I die, Clare, do you?” My answer is no. Separate from my doubts about the existence of a soul and an afterlife for this individual outside the memories of those whom I touch in this life, I also do not know what my continual spiritual growth may bring me to- it will be beautiful, but I cannot yet comprehend that beauty or I would be there now- and I also do not know whether I may face further trauma, too great for me to heal. And I have hope in the beauty and wonder of Life and the love of God and would like the delight of having life never to end for me: but, what will happen after I die is a less important question than, “What should I do, now?” simply because I am not dead yet.

I Corinthians 5: 1-5:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

So, yes. The church can expel people, in the circumstances of the Church in Corinth, surrounded by pagan sects, as decided by the most exceptional church-builder, the Apostle Paul.

But in less exceptional circumstances, less exceptional people should take more to heart the words of Jesus: “first take the beam out of your own eye”.

I love Kris K’s care for the Church, that I not delude potential followers of Christ, and indeed care for me, that I not be deluded and so damned. And I love his clarity of expression of his clear belief. And I disagree with him, and think Heaven bigger than he imagines. So I think my Quaker meeting is a better Church, welcoming all, allowing us to rub up against each other and disagree and be in conflict, and still seek God’s loving purposes in this moment, together.

I suppose it is possible that Kris K is right, that it is indeed as simple as he says and I am so caught up in the wiles of Satan that I am one perpetually, wilfully blind- as in John 12:40,

The Lord has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts–so that their eyes cannot see, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and have me heal them.

But that is not what it feels like. It feels like growth in spirituality, maturity, and understanding. And if God really would give a devilish enemy that much power over me, perhaps I am better off in the lake of fire than with such a horrid God.

This is my hundredth post published.

Knowing, intellectually

Even before I became a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) I often felt moved to minister, and I remember sitting down after speaking in Meeting and wondering, was I really moved by the Holy Spirit to Minister, or was it my own imagining? When I tried to work this out using my rational mind, thinking it through, I could not decide. However, when I sought to access what I felt about it, I felt sure enough that it was Ministry.

Things now are not as I might have hoped, and I notice that I am not taking the actions out in the World which others might think might advance my interests. I console myself with the thought that I am doing necessary and beautiful spiritual and personal growth and healing, that I am loosening bonds which have tied me, and that I am doing the groundwork necessary to take that concrete action in the future. And I doubt myself, is this just fantasy? I am quite certain that I am not now taking all the steps I might to find better work. Is the thought of “personal growth” just whistling in the wind, not connected to reality? And I cannot fashion a rational argument that I am truly growing, that all this is worthwhile, that satisfies my inner rationalist.

Yet, just as with that Ministry, when I consult my feelings about the matter I am sufficiently sure that I am growing. And so I know this intellectually, because my intellect can learn to trust and accept my feelings. I will not “end up” like this. I will move forward from where I am.

Give each other light

Men and women who are married
And men and men who are lovers
And women and women
who give each other
light

Hafiz, again, by Ladinsky. That wonderful rule of three crescendo to climax. There is sweetness in “married”, it means being one flesh; then “lovers” is more solely Wonderful; but “give each other light” goes so much further, expressing the spiritual aspect of carnal love.

Somewhat dispirited by my debate with one of those Christians who thinks that condemnation of homosexuality is the touchstone of Christianity- if you do not condemn it, you are not a proper Christian- I was delighted to read this. I find myself wondering, what would a literal translation say? Though other cultures do not condemn homosexuality nearly as much as these obsessive Evangelicals do, would Hafiz really have written this? Or would he have had a “spiritual” interpretation, nothing to do with sex at all? Actually, it does not matter. I read the English words now, and delight in them. I give light spiritually at the moment, but it is lovely to think that I am capable of giving light carnally.

The Adoration of the Magi

Here is another of my formative experiences of an art work:

As a student, I had a poster of the Adoration of the Magi by Pieter Bruegel the Elder on my wall. This was a pose, as I wanted to appear to be an intellectual, and I did not like it particularly. I cannot say it grew on me, so much as altered in an instant. That instant was a moment of amazing shock and delight.

I got the poster from my father’s “Teachers’ World” magazine, and thought all the people in it hideous and ridiculous, particularly disliking the green-skinned fellow on the far right. And then one day I looked at it, and it was transformed. I saw the reverence and wonder on each of the faces, and ever after saw them like that, not ugly as before.

I am still not sure of the knowingness on the face of the bairn. He is God, after all, he must Know- but to me, he is human, and I find his divine nature particularly difficult to imagine in a newborn. I have seen expressions on the faces of very young children, particularly when in eye-contact with another person, but not this.

So I now love the image, and learned the value of living with a work of art and letting it communicate its secrets over time.

Area Meeting

I am now the assistant clerk of my Quaker area meeting, which is a group of four local meetings. We have about a hundred members in the AM. I fit quite well, I think, with the clerk: he is the sensible, business-like one, I am the touchy-feely one. A Friend said that Richard, having been in the AM for only a short time, had not got to know its funny little ways, but that could be a good thing, because it may be good that funny little ways are questioned rather than simply being accepted.

We had about a quarter of the membership at AM on Sunday, after a lunch provided by my own meeting: we circulate round the local meetings. This is a good turnout, nationally. We are considering how to encourage other members to come.

I am frustrated that any financial business is referred to trustees. Well, we are a charity, subject to charity law, and so that is the right way of doing it, supported by the most recent revisions of the Book of Discipline (note to non-Quakers: yes, it really is called that; it is also called Quaker Faith and Practice, or QFP). But I feel a need to understand what money we have, and what we spend it on, how we use it to further our goals- which I summarise as building the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. And any pastoral issue is referred to Elders and Overseers: again, they have the time, responsibility and expertise to consider pastoral matters, but I would like to get a better feel for those issues with my Friends.

I think that it is in disagreement, forcefully though courteously expressed, that we deepen relationship. We can as Quakers together seek God’s will, God’s loving purposes, or the best Good now available, the next step on the way, and not be too attached to our own wills. But we need to practise these skills or ways of being. However we have limited time, and those who attend AM are the committed Quakers who have taken on other roles in local or area meeting.

I enjoy the lunches. I like having more time to talk with Friends. I have just been given a copy of the Jerusalem bible, after discussing with a weighty Friend the merits of different translations. I feel that more is possible for us.

Testing the medical students

The apex pulse, to be heard via stethoscope below the ribcage on the left, is very difficult to find, the medical student told me. In the hospital, the fourth years were told to find it on a particular patient. Each of them claimed to hear it, and each failed the test: because the patient’s heart was on the right hand side. There was no pulse there to hear.

“Is that possible?” asked the man. “Dextrocardia”, I mutter. “Are you a doctor?” No, I just like big words, I am in the second class carriage after all. I read stuff and remember it. A wonderful lesson to the students: never bluff, and never assume that things are Normal-  after all, people go to hospital because something is abnormal. And a good lesson to me, on the social pressures on doctors and others to Seem to know what is going on.

It was a lovely way of spending an hour on a train. The man’s son, Harrison, aged five, was trying to read every word he could see, and chanting sums. “The whole carriage does not want to hear your sums”, said his mother. I said I liked hearing his enthusiasm. “Let’s have a Pizza!” says Harrison. “Is that what you want?” said his father, seriously: it seems Harrison gets an appropriate part in the family decision making.

The student would like to travel after her degree. It is one which could lead to work anywhere.