All things to all men

LeKyS‘s gender identity is fluid, and they tend to find what someone expects of them and give that gender presentation, they say. The following is my reaction to my way of being rather than a judgment on LeKyS, but provoked by what they say.

I find myself changing the direction of this post from what I wanted to say to what comes into my mind, which is different. I think of two hugs, one pre-transition where I had come out to a group. I hugged M goodbye, and then she said “Now I want a hug from Clare” and I changed and softened and this was a wonderful gift to me. Then another hug this year, where I felt that a supportive hug from my male, strong, capable side, would be welcome, and I gave it as a gift, and it seemed welcomed.

Oh I have judged myself for this in me, seen myself as a harlot or a coward, giving others what they want so they will not hurt me, sneaking round at the edges so I will not be seen and hurt, and now, well, maybe it is just me in those situations, responding. Or, I clam up and say nothing and feel nothing, and after I have left the situation¬†I feel it, anger or hurt, and know what I “should have” said. Perhaps that was the best I could do at the time.

The urgent question, being unemployed, being scared, staying in my living room most of the time is, how can I move on? I have tried so hard to be other than I am, though my ideals have changed, and recently I have been screaming at myself to get on with it and do something, you know what you have to do to improve your situation, just do it-

Citizens Advice Bureau

I moved to ———— CAB at the height of¬†CAB arrogance and stupidity with regard to the funders.

My post was funded by the Legal Service Commission to challenge decisions on benefits. The LSC was creating a “community legal service” with full coverage across the country. Using our office and others to provide advice by telephone gave them greater flexibility. I was funded to provide the same advice someone would provide face to face, drafting appeals against decisions, obtaining evidence and drafting legal submissions.

Unfortunately, the CAB disagreed. They thought that I should answer any questions about benefits the clients had, but if someone needed a decision challenged they would want to be advised face to face, so I should limit my advice to telling them what services were available locally. This is an arguable position, and I think I would prefer to see an adviser who was doing an appeal for me; though also, arguably, advising over the phone lets the adviser keep to the facts and spend less time on the emotional upset which is not her area of expertise. But I thought funding was safer if we actually did what we were funded to do. So I disobeyed, and took on appeals.

As a result, my work was blocked. Several people phoned¬†having received a letter from the¬†DWP saying¬†that benefit had been overpaid, that¬†they could not¬†recover it¬†under statute so would recover it under common law. The common law case is dubious, and in practice the DWP never attempt it, just writing in the hope the claimant will repay the money voluntarily. For the lucky claimant, doing nothing or writing to the DWP saying “Go away” is equally effectual. So I would take the phone call, and write to the claimant telling them this. I wrote these letters to five clients. Each time I¬†copied the reply I had sent to the previous client, and was told to rewrite it with greater detail. I was told to make two records of each case, one in the third person for our records, one in the second person addressed to the client. I was told not to use common abbreviations, but to type out jargon in full. I became completely demotivated, and lost all trust in my employer.

The result was, of course, that the contract was withdrawn less than five months after it had been awarded. But there were other funding streams, and I was put onto employment work.

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Where an employment tribunal case is undefended, the claimant still has to prove his case in a hearing. We had a hearing fixed, and a week before, the employer sought to have a defence admitted late.

The defence will be admitted late if it is in the interests of justice to do so, and usually it is. It is more important to give the respondent an opportunity to defend the case than to protect the claimant from a trifling delay. However I burrowed into this case, and saw that the young solicitor for the respondent had been infected with the respondent’s desire to make only that smallest exaggeration of the truth, which can be fatal to credibility. She had not checked one fact sufficiently, and I could provide the document to show that her assertion was false. Other facts had been exaggerated. I gave the arguments, and the defence was not admitted. The chairman said, “After hearing Miss ________, I was under the impression that… However, having heard Miss Flourish, I was under a very different impression”. Having found the argument, and expressed it, still delights me, and the claimant got ¬£10,000.

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At the time, an employer in the UK had to go through a particular procedure when dismissing a worker, but two months after my minimum wage client had gone off sick she had a letter dismissing her. So she was entitled to compensation because the procedure had not been followed. I made the claim.

However the defence came back with three letters I had not seen before, which together constituted a defence to the claim. The claimant denied receiving them, and I believed her; but proving to the satisfaction of the tribunal that evidence is forged is difficult. Even dismissed fairly, she would still be entitled to twelve weeks’ pay in lieu of notice, because she had worked for the employer for more than twelve years. Because my client did not want to attend a hearing, I offered to settle for that notice pay.

I received another forgery, a photocopied contract of employment where the date of commencement of employment had been altered to show only eight years’ service, and therefore only entitlement to eight weeks’ notice pay. Fortunately, the client had kept her copy of the contract, with the date of commencement, and signatures, written in pen. I disclosed my clear evidence of forgery to the solicitors for the respondent, and threatened to seek costs if the employer did not pay the full amount of compensation and notice before the hearing.

From pure luck, we caught the swine out. Strange that he would rather perjure himself, and pay a greater sum in lawyers’ fees, than pay his employee her due.

Without the added stress of the employment tribunal claim, the woman could probably have gone back to work much earlier than she did.

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Sandra came to me having been dismissed because she was transsexual.

She had the usual history, trying to make a man of herself by joining the Army. She passed well: the receptionists would not have realised her history, they told me. This dismissal had completely broken her. Once, I timed sitting still and silent, not looking at her, for ten minutes while her anger and distress poured out unassuaged. She had been accused of theft, and had made the claim to the tribunal herself. It was not until the Saturday before the hearing that I properly understood the evidence of discrimination among the pages of notes of investigation and hearings: there was evidence that the theft could not have happened as the witnesses described, which the investigating manager had suppressed. However, so late, I could not get that over to the tribunal in my cross-examination, and they found that any employee would have been dismissed for theft, not just a transsexual person: so there was no discrimination.

I was repeatedly in tears in the office over this. I never achieved proper professional detachment, though I was not empathising with the clients so much as frustrated with my inability to make cases stick to my own satisfaction. Nor did we correctly separate decisions for the claimant to make from decisions that we should make ourselves; bodge, hope, and settle the day before hearing was the model. It worked, much of the time.

Once again, we did not conform to the funders’ requirements, and lost certain funding streams. One funder did not make its decision to renew funding until eighteen days after the last award had expired: I had my redundancy notice, but carried on working from week to week.

Eventually, I could not bear it any longer, and walked out. That was January 2010. Since then I have had one six month temporary contract, and now I do a little voluntary work, and live on savings. I cannot go on like this for ever (though I can for another year, perhaps) and need to know what to do next. The process of job applications: lots of interviews for similar jobs to what I have been doing, then no offer, leaves me feeling dispirited, crushed and rejected. I have not done many recently.

Toxic shame

I am dealing with¬†my shame. I keep saying I have done it, and I just go deeper in, and I will deal with it.¬†I was with¬†a group, and afterwards one of us wrote about his experience. He referred to me as “One of us, a crossdresser…” which I find worse than discourteous: wilfully ignorant and intolerant, even though to my face he was quite polite. And that hurts, and I look at people with distrust: this educated, middle-class, arty-type, if he is like that anyone could be. He corrected himself to “transwoman”, though not to “trans woman”-¬†“trans woman”¬†is better because it is a woman, qualified by an adjective;¬†“transwoman” is a thing apart, not really a woman. And why the adjective at all? Compare and contrast, “One of us, a Black woman…” John Terry is prosecuted for less.

I went into my ritual space, and wept over the shame I had felt at being transsexual, and the pain and effort of trying to make a man of myself. I accepted and felt that pain and shame which I have suppressed and which I will not suppress any more. I lived it, I was it. It is alright to feel this.

I am aware of the dangers of rumination, and I do not think that is what I am doing. It feels like working through my shame. I have cognitive techniques to deal with it- my struggle showed courage, something innate is not something to be ashamed of, it is blessing to empathise with both men and women; and I have an idea of what it might look like to be free of the shame, self-accepting, not hurt by thoughtless remarks of others. I would not need validation from others, so could accept them as they are, and see them more clearly. I would not be projecting onto others.

Practise. Practise. Practise.

Christmas

Christmas¬†in Cardiff¬†has been rather wonderful.¬†Gladys gave me a black leather handbag, and as I consider the contrasting stitching, the detail on the strap, I see that it is designed in perfect taste, enough detail to be worth looking at without being fussy or precious. Rhianwen, who is 13, knitted her grandmother¬†Gladys a scarf with a very fine wool, so that it is light and soft. I played I giorni on the piano.¬†Louise loves it¬†and will get it¬†on ITunes.¬†Rhydian played the first movement of the Path√©tique sonata. This has inspired me to get out some old repertoire, and work up Rachmaninov’s C# minor prelude. I played it for a group, and a woman said those three unison octaves made her think “Let Me Out”, but she tolerated my performance: it is a wonderful piece for a frustrated teenager, just bash the piano and get it out of the system.

Is there a tincture of boasting in writing of this? I started the piano when I was six, I have a certain natural talent, and I have done the work to recreate these wonderful works of art in my own living room, or those of friends. Making that recreation, joining my own interpretation to the soul of the notes, gives me great joy and joy for others. Rhianwen has just passed her Grade II, and is getting the joy of it even if she is only practising an hour a week at the moment. All that effort, for that result, it is beautiful and a source of delight.

Seeing the person

File:Macaque neonatal imitation.pngIf I do not hear what other people say, do I see them? I understand there is an NLP tag, “perceiving is projecting”- so, No. Is it that bad? Well, it is my mirror neurons firing off when I try to understand another’s feelings: it is something in me, with my blind spots and my over-emphases. This might be most difficult when I know the situation, but not the reaction: Others may react to their particular situation differently: it is worth pausing to see the actual reaction not the reaction I would have imagined.

Those whose glass is half full find it easier to empathise with those whose glass is half empty than the other way round. The pessimists do not quite get what it is they are missing, and may not see that there is another way. Similarly, those operating on Fear do not quite get those who operate on Love, though when operating on fear I found that other kind, on rare occasions when I could perceive it, powerfully attractive.

It may be most difficult to see another’s reaction to myself. My own experience of myself is so intense it is hard to imagine that others do not experience me the same way: I project my judgment of myself onto others. Being aware of the issue is a good step.

Communicating

It was thoughtful, though hardly “Benzine is a ring” thoughtful; it was kind, though not the sort of kindness which actually put me out or cost anything. I said, that is not the most important thing in your father’s life, and my friend said that I had given her a new and liberating perspective. Ten years on, after I said that she said¬†“I want to tell a different story now”. Cue girly screams of delight: this pleased me as much as anything last week. And, as so often, I was talking to myself. The other thing need not be the most important thing in my life, either.

Another friend told me something which really pleased me, though when I asked what she had meant it sounded subtly different. What I had heard was that she had been unable to see me as a woman (yes, that thing,¬†still the most important thing in my life, I am working on it)- she had been unable to see me as a woman until she had wept over her own upbringing in Spain, before the death of Franco- and then she could see me as a woman. So I checked with her, and she told me, “Connecting with the grief of having being brought up in a Catholic, narrow minded and reactionary environment allowed me to fulfill your desire that I address you as a woman. After you revealed that you have been born a man I was conscious of something blocking me verbalizing that you were a woman, so I self-enquired and found that a conservative upbringing was the issue.”

I told another friend I had been hurt, and later she referred to “the man who had been really horrible to you”. But that was not what I had meant at all: I had been hurt by circumstances, and blamed no-one for it. Perhaps I should not ask, just imagine I have got over what I wanted to, it does not do great harm.

Blessed Christmas

I wish you a Merry Christmas, with these Nativity scenes from great art galleries:

Moscow School, 16th century, The Hermitage

Botticelli, The National Gallery

Martin Schongauer, Berlin Gemaldegalerie der Staatlichen Museen

Jean Michelin, The Louvre

Petrus Christus, Washington National Gallery of Art

May your God bless you and keep you and make God’s face to shine upon you, and give you peace.

Correct policies

The presence of a hospital policy or procedure is not a good marker of actual practice.

I was only half listening, but this quote on Radio 4 from a report of the National Audit of Dementia¬†on the treatment of sufferers in the NHS made me take notice. My second thought was, I don’t walk my own talk, and that is¬†a good thing: I realise that¬†something is right, on an intellectual level¬†or in my heart, and I integrate it into my life over time. I am learning and growing. So a new policy may take time to percolate down through an organisation.

I have heard of care homes with two rotas: the one to show the inspection team if they visit, and the actual rota operated, with fewer staff. That is fraud.

In hospitals, there might be a variety of reasons why the documented policies were not implemented. There might be too great an emphasis on getting the paperwork right, or appearing to have the right policies. The policy requirements might be too detailed: they cannot all be known, and workers are too keen to implement the policies they have actually heard of, to guard their own backs.

I think that if there is a description of how a hospital will operate, it should be correct. Spouting words which do not fit reality harms us all. My friend who used to work with the NHS says that if there is a policy, and it is not followed, at least there is a wrong which can be specified, punished or compensated.

It is in this context that I read NHS slogans such as “your health, your choices”.

Advices and Queries

The Advices and Queries are among the greatest treasures of the Quakers. Initially a way of enforcing good behaviour, one can trace their development over the 19th and 20th centuries to a summary of our wisdom about the Good Life. The person who introduced me to Quakers gave me a copy, and I keep a few in my flat, now, to give out. Meditating on these 42 paragraphs in turn brought me to my Quaker meeting. I particularly love paragraph 33:

Are you alert to practices here and throughout the world which discriminate against people on the basis of who or what they are or because of their beliefs? Bear witness to the humanity of all people, including those who break society’s conventions or its laws. Try to discern new growing points in social and economic life. Seek to understand the causes of injustice, social unrest and fear. Are you working to bring about a just and compassionate society which allows everyone to develop their capacities and fosters the desire to serve?

Shortly after transition, I visited the meeting in Chester, and this was read at the start of worship, as it is the custom to read one of these paragraphs in worship in many meetings. I broke down in tears, and was consoled. It is the mutual respect and cherishing in our life together at its best, and imbuing the whole document, which fits us to live up to paragraph 27:

Live adventurously. When choices arise, do you take the way that offers the fullest opportunity for the use of your gifts in the service of God and the community? Let your life speak.

Paragraph 27 continues,

When decisions have to be made, are you ready to join with others in seeking clearness, asking for God’s guidance and offering counsel to one another?

We are enjoined to make decisions together, each of us seeking not our own interest or our own way, but the good of all, and where relevant the good of the wider community.

Different Yearly Meetings have different versions of A&Q.

Keep taking the tablets

Well, I came off the sweeties, then I went back on, because I had been emotional, but because of the risks of cancer and thrombosis I went back on a lower dose. Meanwhile my GP had written to the endocrinologist I saw ten years ago, and she wrote back to say I should stay on them life long because of the risk of osteoporosis.

It is hard to tell from inside, but I think on the lower dose I am more emotional than I was before coming off. So I want to keep taking the tablets to control emotional lability, for the moment. I suppose I could come off gradually, especially with fewer stressors, to avoid more serious risks. I do not know if anyone has quantified the risks, or whether they would be markedly different for a woman who has had a hysterectomy and oopherectomy or for a woman (me) who has had an orchiectomy. Nor do I know what would be an appropriate dose.

I was prescribed the tablets initially as a diagnostic test- will this patient come back? I wanted them to promote breast growth, in combination with epilation and electrolysis to reduce body hair, and to alter the pattern of fat deposits (that works for some people, who get cellulite). Then the dose was tripled to increase breast growth, to little effect, and I have stayed on the tripled dose. I think I would prefer to take nothing and have bone density scans to monitor the risk of osteoporosis, because taking nothing reduces the risk of cancer and thrombosis. I could go back on oestradiol if osteoporosis threatened. Also, I understand that taking oestradiol makes the veins thinner, and deeper in the body. It is nice not to have blue veins visible on the backs of my hands, but I am not sure I want them thinner.

However, I would have still started taking Ovran when I did, for the purposes for which I took it, had I known what I know now.

Being more emotional has helped me to access emotions I have suppressed, and now feel able to release.