Norethisterone II

I am on my period. Sort of, anyway…

For some years a trans woman I met put a rubber bladder inside her knickers for five days each month, filled with a red concoction of the consistency of menstrual blood, which would leak out into a sanitary towel. I thought this entirely bizarre, but she wanted to have part of the experience of menstruating. Of course, her period was generally in her control.

I seem to have greater emotional lability when on Norethisterone acetate, twelve days in 28. The moments which most embarrass me over the last three months have taken place on the green pills. But then I started them on Tuesday last week, and have felt good. Planning my trip to Luton from Richmond was a pain: will I find three separate entrances to public transport, in streets I do not know, in five minutes? Will any of them be late so that I have less time? Even on the bus, I was stressed.

I keep thinking of an archetypal human conflict with the woman on the bus. She sat beside me holding the bar in front, so I had to ask her to let me out, twice. When I got off she caught my eye, standing in the street- she got off, she had time, I had no need to get up so quickly. Or, I have a right to get up early if it makes me feel better. Each irritated the other, and she caught my eye and pulled a face at me. Of such minor triumphs good morale is made.

Meeting a friend. She texted, don’t be angry that I am late. Oh, Darling, I thought, I expected you to be late, I am quite mellow. The food was poor: edible but dry and boring, in small quantities. Now, I have a letter about my last meeting with Stuart Lorimer of Charing Cross GIC, and I am not reading it. I glance at it, read a sentence, get worked up about what it says, leave it. Perhaps I will sit down with it, it says nothing I do not know, though the differences between his understanding and mine irk me.

Flirting with the woman at the station ticket office. I have noticed her, either butch lesbian or possibly a woman who likes to “wear the trousers” with sissy men; and on Friday she said “That’s £9.60, Honey”. Ooh. Yesterday she admired my necklace, so I took off a matching earring to show her.

With that friend, I got to the theatre just before the lights went down: not bad seats, actually, and quite on time.

So I do need to manage stress, or I could be a stress monster. But the risk of shouting at someone might be worth it, if I could enjoy the heightened sensibility the rest of the time.

Ingres, Venus Diomede

Gayle Newland

“For us, that was what was normal”. In this case, always wearing a blindfold when with her “boyfriend”, putting it on before he would open the door to her, kissing and cuddling on the sofa before the television blindfolded, blindfolded during sex, blindfolded when going out together, riding in a car then being led through a building up some steps into a garden where they sunbathed. It was only when sucking her boyfriend off and finding that the scrotum “felt wrong” that she took off the blindfold and found it was her female friend in a strap-on.

Honestly, possibly. The jury believed her. The defendant, Gayle Newland, claimed that the unnamed woman victim had been her friend, meeting her as Gayle rather than as “Kye”, Gayle’s male persona, and confessing that she like Gayle was lesbian but deeply screwed up about it. There had been no deception.

As a trans woman, I find it wearing, that “sex with a woman” and “sex with a man” are held to be so different that trans folk might be criminalised for pretending. Don’t come here for legal advice: I am unclear whether the operation is what makes the difference, as I now have a vagina, or the Gender Recognition Certificate, as the laws of England and Scotland both consider I am a woman. As far as I was concerned, I was a woman when I ceased presenting male, and now am prepared to assert I was female from birth, though I would not have said so at the time.

I would make sure I had informed consent before sex. One way of considering me is “demi-sexual”, getting physical only after forming a romantic attachment; “demi-sexual” makes it sound like an orientation, but it could be having imbibed certain taboos and moral attitudes about sex. But I feel trans folk should be able to have casual sex on the same terms as anyone else- see someone through beer goggles, say “What the hell”, find somewhere quiet- without that conversation.

That was not what happened here. There was a relationship over several months.

If Gayle Newland was ashamed of wanting sex with women, being Lesbian, she still managed it. She said, “I had never spoken to any gay people and especially in those years you didn’t see gay people on television. It was quite a negative thing. I just felt that speaking to people [in real life] I couldn’t really be myself.” She is 25. For so many of us, internalised homophobia is as bad as it ever was. Could she not believe that anyone else would find her real female self attractive, or was Gayle the act, Kye the true self? Is she trans?

I don’t know whether to be pleased or horrified at the lengths someone will go, for affection. Someone who told me she was too ugly, and I had to wear a blindfold? I would want to be trusted, to see her inner beauty.

Two Guardian reports.

In October, the Court of Appeal quashed her conviction, criticising the judge’s summing up, and she was retried. On 29 June she was convicted, and released pending a sentencing hearing. The judge said that on 20th July Newland was likely to receive a “significant custodial sentence”.

The complainant, who it appears thought “Kye” was a man, texted the accused after finding out the truth. Are you for real you should be locked up for what you’ve done to me. You raped my life, my heart and soul. No amount of counselling will make up for this. you are pure evil Gayle. You are sick. I only have one question: why me? You have no explanation, Gayle, other than you are pure evil … If I had not ripped off the mask I would not have known the evil truth. She was straight. The thought of sex with a woman horrified her. A further Guardian report.

Angelo Bronzino, Venus, Cupid and Envy

The Cusp of Transition

Dear Sandra,

I hardly know you. We met in that social group, just the once, and now we are emailing. I don’t know your circumstances, or what difficulties you will have: but I am going to tell you that you must transition; that it is the only way to happiness for you.

I say that because you need to hear it, and you probably email me to hear it, even if you can’t admit that to yourself. Sensible moderate friends will tell you of the risks, and your internalised transphobia will do the rest- it is a fantasy, you will never pull it off, work will sack you, friends will leave you… so you email me, and I tell you that transition is the only way to happiness.

Without transitioning, you are forced to play a part, a part that does not fit you. James is not you. James is the best you can manage, pretending to be a man: a surprisingly good pretence, as it means a lot to us and we try very hard indeed, but a painful pretence, which can prevent you from knowing what you are feeling, which makes the world grey. You must transition! The world will change from monochrome to colour. You will be truly, authentically you, with no need to act any more (though acting can be a useful tactic, sometimes). You cannot be happy in this painful, distorting mask. The only way you can be truly happy is to transition.

You have the strength and courage for it. I know this, because you are still alive. Our condition breaks people, and some of us kill ourselves, and you have not. It is horrendously difficult to try to make a go of life, presenting male, and you have done it. The life force is strong in you. And now, transition is the essential step which you know in your heart will make you happy.

You are considering other people’s feelings. You have not yet told him, because he might “find it difficult”. Well, you don’t know that. Most people, if they have any respect for you, any empathy at all, will accept your decision. Not everyone: I lost two friends whom I loved; but that was their problem, not mine, their neuroses and inability to accept life and the world as it is; and I have gained many more friends than that. Only when you can be who you truly are, can you be happy.

You know the difficulties, and you know in your heart you must do it, or you would not be writing to me. Trying to be rational, you might think transition insane or ridiculous: it makes no sense, you have a Y chromosome, whatever- and yet you know you want it. The heart has reasons reason knows not of-

and transition is the only way you can be happy.

Francesco Hayez, Ballerina Carlotta Chabert as Venus

Disobedience

I don’t know if I am hormonal. I don’t know if any particular cause of stress is something to wind up the most unflappable person, or something only the personification of PMS would possibly find irritating. But perhaps I should just enjoy it.

What was stressing me yesterday morning (“Fuck fuck fuck fuck…”, you know the drill) was getting to Luton by 11am today. To avoid the stress, I decided not to bother, and got there by lunchtime.

-Are you not eating?
-I was away from home and could not make lunch.
-Would you like a banana?
-I knew someone would get genuine pleasure from helping me out. I am providing a service.
-I’m sorry, I can only offer a marmite sandwich.
-You are feeding me, and you are apologising?

Quakers. Honestly.

-I’m beautiful. I feel beautiful for the first time in my life.
-Do you mean inner beauty? Joyce is confused, and I am insulted.
-Bugger inner beauty and sod wisdom, I am talking about surfaces. I love being Shallow!

Later, introduce yourself and share anything you like. Joyce is 46, and upset by the lines on her face. She does not like ageing. I go next. “I am Abigail, and I am Beautiful.”

In the dancing, I am still, exploring dancing with my feet rooted to the floor. Timmy does not like this, but rather than asking me to move he issues a general instruction that anyone wishing to be still should move to the side. So I stay. He gives the same general instruction, and I decide to do the opposite of anything he says. “Breathe” is a difficult one: I hold my breath for half a minute. I notice the others, instructed to move forward in fours, look round worriedly: are there four already? We so want to conform.

Observant folk will notice I am boasting of small disobediences. Well, I am backward, have never learned to push boundaries, always wanted to win approval by conformity, but such approval if given at all is worthless. Baby steps.

Georges Rouget, Cupid pleads Venus to pardon Psyche

Beautiful

I got this wig about three years ago. Initially, I was amazed that it was real hair and lace fronted for £30. Lace fronted means that the parting is quite natural. A monofilament wig, where individual fibres emerge from the cap, through which the scalp can be seen, can have a parting but has a tell-tale dark line at the edge of the cap. A lace fronted wig has a natural looking parting.

Unfortunately the lace in this wig, while it is skin-tone. is skin-tone for a black person or dark-skinned Asian, rather than for me. Under the parting, the weave of the lace shows dark over the scalp. Standing close to the mirror in the hotel bathroom, it is unpleasantly obvious to me. Originally, the lace protruded beyond the hair line and I had to cut it off, after buying it. Cutting it, I saw the lace was always visible, and so the wig has sat in my cupboard, almost unworn.

I tried it on on Tuesday, and noticed how it made my eyes glow. The colour is perfect for me. Possibly the way it hangs contributes to the effect. Even, possibly, H’s comment that she had only just noticed how intense the brown of my eyes was, brings them to life for me.

I feel beautiful. I have felt that I look feminine, or female, or womanly- subtly different things- but now for the first time I know I look beautiful, and it is a glorious feeling. I asked S about the hair colour, and she said how beautifully it set off my eyes, though may have been prompted by my widening my eyes. Suddenly I love mirrors-

though only if they are far enough away, that I do not notice the lace.

I could have the wig cut, to have a short fringe over the lace front. It would not have a hair-line any more, but it does not really now. Though some of the front hair has to be used to create that fringe, I am not sure about the shape.

Another option is just to leave it, and have the parting with its strange criss-cross pattern showing. Anyone who notices it and realises it is a wig or just thinks it looks strange, can. Few people make personal remarks. Self-consciousness arises within me, and I may be able to create in myself self-confidence. I am beautiful, and if I know that it changes my whole mien.

Photos when I get one which does me justice.

Rossetti, Venus Verticordia

Norethisterone

Should I be taking norethisterone? It is synthetic progesterone, and (if the difference between the green pills and the white pills means what I think it means) I take it twelve days in every 28. Why should a trans woman take hormones, anyway? What good do they do?

My friend is a retired doctor, as is her husband. I wanted to discuss my emotional lability, and the possibility of a hormonal effect on that, with a friend before the psychiatrist in November. She thought her husband would be more up to date on endocrinology. I thought, oh, do I have to? Telling a friend is one thing, telling yet another person that I have never met-

I cycled by country roads, luckily picking the right private farm road, and entered their beautiful house. The garden is glorious. I meet this man, and really do not want to. We shake hands. Over lunch I admire the art work- this 4′ high fish is welded together of bicycle parts- and having sensed my discomfort she suggests he go out of the room, she could consult him if she really needs to: yet such was his gentle charm that now I would like him present.

The whole problem is life passing me by (does everyone think that, or only most of the people most of the time?) while I sit at home with little motivation and no felt ability to earn money to support myself. And I feel so lonely yet want to hide away. But the smaller problem, which might be addressed by hormone adjustment, is my emotional lability. I would like to discuss this with you without bursting into tears. I would like to discuss Quaker problems with an overseer without crying or getting angry.

He says, there is not always a medical solution, and one of the GP’s roles is to protect patients from specialists. An endocrinologist will seek a hormonal solution, a psychiatrist a psychiatric one. Mmm, sometimes leave well alone is the best answer. I started the norethisterone after the endocrinologist saw blood results, and after the psychiatrist suggested testosterone for motivation.

Godward, an Offering to VenusHe says, the point of norethisterone in HRT is that oestradiol alone risks cancer of the lining of the womb, and norethisterone clears it out reducing that risk. So there should be no need in me. Now, I wonder, what of motivation, did the specialist know something he did not? Or not? One of his patients on norethisterone had been quite unreasonable emotionally- he happened to see it, she admitted it- and on this sample size of one he was wary of it. Though proper peer reviewed studies may be no more reliable.

There you go. One possible thing worth trying. Not an answer, even though hormones affect mood: premenstrual syndrome is not merely a male chauvinist myth, and I feel, well, premenstrual. I could try and see if I felt more labile when taking the green pills.

We discussed my wider issues. On defences, he noticed that when I seemed to be coming to an important point, I would digress into a long story.

I feel valued. I feel cared for. It was lovely, talking of my stuff to sympathetic hearers for two hours.

 

Gentleness

I matter. While happiness simply for its own sake may not be the best primary goal, all other things being equal I am better happy. My happiness matters. It is so good for me to be reminded of this today, because it is not my conscious understanding, a lot of the time.

I imagine there are some people who feel the opposite- pebbles rather than clods– for whom it would be salutary to be reminded to take consideration of the feelings of others, from time to time. I know which I am. Knowing I am a clod, and being Blake’s clod is what I wish to be, what I respect, whereas being a pebble I find repellent and hard to imagine, I approach this Dalai Lama quote which I found on Alaina Mabaso’s lovely blog. I don’t know whether the Dalai Lama said it, either, but bestdalailamaquotes alleges he did:

When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you will suffer a lot. When you realize that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy.

Perhaps from Buddhism I could learn enlightenment, but not from facebook memes even if they quote the wisest man in the world. Sometimes other people are thoughtless and careless, and put me out. Even Ingres, Venus Anadyomene- rising from the seaif they should not have been so careless, it may be easier just to sort the situation than to persuade that person s/he is wrong and should make amends. This is part of accurately seeing what one can change and having the courage to change it. At the CAB, I dreaded hearing “It’s the principle of the thing” or that it was not for herself the client was concerned, but for all the others who might suffer similar injustice: because in both cases I thought the client was deluding themself. I was never as cynical as my lecturer who said “Principles are to be encouraged, because they make money for lawyers”.

I am not saying Alaina is wrong, merely riffing on the subject because I had nothing else to blog about, thinking as I type. On her second quote,

If you are willing to look at another person’s behavior toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time cease to react at all.” ~ Yogi Bhajan

it may just be a semantic point that it is better to respond in conscious awareness rather than to react emotionally, especially in a potential conflict situation. Etty Hillesum- I keep thinking of this story– having no way of responding to the anger of the shouting man, pitied him. Sometimes there are “things we cannot change”, though temperamentally you may be more likely to think that, or more likely to hurl yourself against every immovable object, or chaotically to get it wrong both ways. While “Think it possible you may be mistaken” is good advice, some people do that too much too. Virtue is the golden mean.

And I matter. Oh Christ, thank God for the reminders of it!

The “Classic” Doctor Who fan

I love Doctor Who, and not just Missy the trans woman. My friend is a fan of “classic” Doctor Who, not the show this century. When I asked why, he mentioned those creatures which farted all the time- the Slitheen of Raxacoricofallapatorius- which he called ridiculous. But that was 2005: have you watched it since then? The Magician’s Apprentice- [spoilers]

Consider the “hand mines”, a semantic game leading to a dark flight of fancy, and the image of hands coming up through a sea of mud, to pull a man down. The soil flubs back as if he had never been there. The hands have eyes on the palm. It is a simple, throwaway idea, beautifully executed over half a minute, shown that we see the details in turn: I understand hand-mines, even though they might do something new. They create the threat for the central encounter, between the Doctor and the “child who’s not going to die today”.

Having watched it twice, of course, I see more in it: Colony Sarff is a slave of the Daleks, so glides like a dalek; he is a colony of snakes, so the gliding is in curves not straight lines. “Your powers do not work here” says the Sister on Karn- a reference to The Brain of Morbius and the Eighth Doctor’s regeneration which this Doctor Who nerd appreciates- as his face twists and he looks worried. This is meaningless until the second viewing, after you have seen him dissolve into a myriad snakes. The snake effects look real, unlike in Kinda or Snakedance.

-How does she do that?
-Some kind of psychic projection?
-That’s a great help.

The pseudo-scientific jargon served to indicate that the Doctor knew what was going on and would deal with it, often with a machine which might emit sparks or small explosions. The threat is revealed, but the Doctor puts the invaders into a “time loop”, you know the kind of thing. In Flatline last year, the Doctor simply shouted “I’m the Doctor” at the invaders, who disappeared. Sometimes the jargon is used, and sometimes it’s laughed at. Well, I like a bit of variation.

So much invention. The planes stop in the sky: but that is Missy’s way of getting UNIT’s attention, to get help finding The Doctor, who knows he will die so throws a three week long party in the twelfth century, at one point playing a bass guitar on a tank. Some of the ideas are silly, but Doctor Who has always been silly, or playful. The ideas are knitted together, each having meaning, each having beauty or interest in its own right, around the central moral dilemma:

Davros made the Daleks, but who made Davros?

The former answer was, the thousand year war created that level of hate and fear linked to that creative will, perpetuating the hatred in a creature whose only desire is to survive. We have seen the Doctor and the child Davros together twice, and having avoided or deprecated spoilers, I had the full weight of the shock when he announces his name. I don’t expect the answer to be discussed in depth, only for one or more possible answers to be suggested. I expect to be entertained.

Welcome insanity

I need to tell you this. I don’t know how. I imagine uncomprehending laughter at the ridiculous trans.

There are things I could do, but there is nothing I have to do today. The forecast is heavy rain until late afternoon. I feel some lassitude and imagine I will spend a great deal of time watching TV.

By the way, I love Missy on Doctor Who. Not only has she changed sex, she dresses like a tranny. And she has that wonderful volcanic take no shit personality: “No, I have not turned guid“, she says, going Scottish and killing someone just to make her point.

It might be better to tidy my room, or sort my weekend- I can go dancing if X, so I would be well to check the possibility of X. It would be lovely to see B again. Instead, I want to dress up. I want to dress in a feminine fashion, though I will not be going out or seeing anyone. I want to manifest as utterly girly, simply for myself.

My enraged contempt at this desire stuns me. So it really is all about the clothes. It affirms the theory of autogynephilia: it is how the clothes make me feel, nothing more. It is not rational or sensible- though neither was transition, of course- to put on the heating rather than to put on a thicker sweater. Well, I don’t want to put on a sweater, I want to wear something pretty.

I overcome my enraged contempt, and do what I want. It makes no sense except that it is what I want.

I don’t rate my dress sense highly. That is why I said Missy dresses like a tranny- flamboyant but completely unfashionably, that cameo brooch at the neck was fashionable some time in the 90s. This long, soft skirt which I call “feminine”- well, Suzy passed the message on that I should show off my legs, and that is more fashionable, in leggings or short skirts. Well, this skirt is what I have. I don’t know what other clothes I would want.

It seems to me this is the only way I know how to pamper or affirm myself. All that resistance- it is stupid, pointless, ridiculous, imagining the raucous laughter of tout le monde- So now I am sitting, writing, and this is all I have done: I paced the floor, I made my decision, I showered and dressed, and it is lunch time. And I am exhausted by that work, such that this afternoon I will do little beyond watching telly or perhaps staring into space. Ruminating, thinking this over, noticing the truth of it.

(I’m NOT RUMINATING!!!! I thought this morning. I AM MAKING PROGRESS!! I DO THIS FOR ME!!!)

Hundreds of people come here from t-central, and some of them click several links in my menu, and none of them ever leaves a comment. Does this speak to you, at all? This is the only way I have to value myself, this is the only thing I know to do, purely for myself. I feel such delight and misery, pride and shame- that this is all I know, and that I am doing it.

Titian, Venus of Urbino

Of course I have been here before. I like to think I am making progress, but perhaps not. So I care for myself in some inchoate way, just in this moment, and delight in it, not doing anything which my inner rationalist would approve of. I sense the resistance. I am aware how much I fight myself. I seek to find patterns, it is the human thing to do, and perhaps there are none. And yet- right now I am doing what I want to do, rather than what makes sense, and I hope that is a good thing.

Difficult business meeting

Meeting for worship for business is at least as important as the unprogrammed meeting for worship. In both we may encounter God, Reality, and the community; but in deciding among ourselves what practicality is Good, it is more difficult to retreat into comforting illusions.

Should people leave the meeting, when their nomination to a role is being considered? No, I say. It is very rare that anyone nominated is not appointed, though there is always the theoretical possibility. It wastes time to have people leave. I have had people speak against me behind my back, truly and falsely, and would far prefer them to have the courage to say it to my face. Having people leave is a ritual which does not answer the actual needs of the meeting, only an imaginary world where we might reject someone: we preserve our illusions by insisting on it. And in this particular case, we need a — for his meeting, no-one else will do it, so we cannot reject him.

I am heartily sick of nominations committee. Someone told me the AM clerk should not be on noms, as she could in theory appoint people from a little clique and have too much influence on the meeting. Fat chance. In three years I have had one conversation where someone was actually enthusiastic to take on the role: not on Quaker committees, but such things as elder/overseer/trustee. I hear the expressions of distress from people when I exert moral blackmail to take on the job- “No-one else will do it” is all I can say, but that does sometimes work- or when they seek release. “I have thought long and hard about this letter”- of course he has, he is conscientious and committed, and it has all been too much.

I am appointed to nominations until 31 December, and if the only alternative to me serving after then is my meeting not represented on nominations, I still prefer not to serve. Even though I know more members from other local meetings than most of my small meeting do.

However, when I proposed from the clerk’s table that the man only leave if anyone indicated his appointment was controversial, without any gap between them people rose to explain those nominated should leave. I feel bruised by this: there was no need for quite so much “me too” ministry. One said that guidance on right ordering should come from elders rather than the clerk: he explained over lunch that he meant to assist me by not loading that extra weight on me, but it felt at the time as if he meant I should keep my nose out of such things. Later in the meeting, he stood and started speaking before I had named him. I said, “—, would you wait to be called.”

He slapped his wrist and said “Bad Boy,” mock angrily. That was not what I said. Possibly, it is how he sees himself.

Calling for the elders to specify right ordering is not calling on some ideal font of wisdom, but calling on the two actual people who happen to be there. Eldering is better done in private after a meeting.

I wonder about bringing up right ordering as an agendum. We know all this stuff, after all. We also recognise the depth of worship in a meeting. Burne-Jones, the Mirror of Venus featured