Living with past and future

The lake is surrounded by willow, a protection for the wildfowl from galumphing humans; but here there is a gap, with a bench. The bench commemorates a woman’s life, and stuck between wood and metal there are cards and prayers for Mother’s Day. We sit in the sun looking over to an island, where the birds preen and wheel. Two geese fly low overhead, honking.

What is the correct attitude to the traffic noise? It does not overwhelm the noise of the birds. The road is hidden by more willow and oak. It is “A sign of the energy of our civilisation”? Try to ignore it? There is enough beauty here, it is not important?

I was upset this morning, at something that happened nearly ten years ago. I was in conflict; I was right; I lost. I was bullied and humiliated. And on Sunday, the day after that last job interview, I showed courage. I could just have stayed at home, but I cycled forty miles, the furthest I have gone in a day this century; though I feared an encounter, I wanted it, thinking it a good challenge. She would be fascinating. I was disappointed she was not there. Then I cycled home, enjoying the sunshine, knowing the labour of miles still to go.

That same day was the “Becoming Friends” discussion group at K, on Advices and Queries. Are we, really, good enough to be Quaker? One suffered because of his integrity. I wish I knew him better, he has done well since. I thought of other conflicts- I was in the right; one I fought so hard, and Won!- the other I just gave up.

The jobs I have applied for this year would have been beautiful. There is something worthy of my love and creativity, in this job too. Oh, I am so tired! Can I bring myself to apply for it, the closing date is so soon! And it terrifies me. I would see that man, and he would understand, and I would not, he would see through my masks and I would be useless and humiliated. Needing to pretend, and my pretence stripped away! The tensions, and not knowing! And the other man, my friend, the weight of his love and fear, and their love for him…

Or my talents have value, I could contribute, I would live with the uncertainty and some things I did might be worthwhile-

I have not done mindfulness meditation because I fear it. The weight of my feeling- rage and terror, frustration resentment and shame, would overwhelm me. Now, with my friend, negative and positive, fear and painful wonder, alternate in my mind.

Walt Whitman:

Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and of every [one] hearty and clean,
Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be less familiar than the rest.

Monet, Branch of the Seine near Giverny

Peak trans

Peak trans is that moment when a trans woman does something you find unpleasant or objectionable, which is your licence to loathe, mock and berate all trans women for ever after. Because she’s always that nasty and stupid, and they’re all like that, all the time: misogynist, domineering, self-centred, masculine, and for them it’s all about them. Peak trans is hash tags and websites where women can share these stories and say, well, I was a liberal feminist and pro-trans, or at least not completely hostile until I met one and got revolted. Because they are revolting. Or until I read something on the internet.

Let’s consider some “Peak trans” claims. Google for the quotes, if you really must.

And I may not be correct here in assuming this but considering autogynephilia IS a paraphilia along with pedophilia it makes perfect sense that these MtT are attracted to underage girls. Some of them are even twisted enough to fantasize that they ARE teenage girls inside their own heads.

MtT is “Male to Trans”. She is well down the rabbit hole, perhaps never tolerant of trans women. Her “Peak trans” moment was when she first heard of the concept and was revolted- but rather than thinking, this is a human being, she sought out justification for her hostility. Considering mice are mammals along with elephants, perhaps mice can weigh several tons. Or perhaps not.

I found myself thinking that maybe I ( a socialist) will vote for Cruz because at least then he will appoint conservative judges who won’t give in to the bathroom bullshit. What the hell world am I living in that I actually have that thought???

A world where hating trans women is more important to you than not starting wars, not teaching Creationism as science, or women having access to abortion.

This woman self-identified as a trans man for a bit, but changed her mind. The final crack was seeing a trans woman I used to follow, post a photo of herself in a nice dress, for a night out. Something really irked me about it: she stood in a ridiculous little-girl pose (she’s middle aged), complete with high heel slightly raised in the air. I didn’t see an empowered woman. I saw a man in a dress, mocking women. So that trans woman should dress to please other women, not herself? She goes on, Now I read on here every day. It makes me feel confident, supported, and even loved. I LOVE feeling like I’ve found answers, but most importantly, community with like-minded women. Because when you are in a cult defined around identifying yourself as persecuted and another group as deserving to be hated simply for a single characteristic they share, your hate is addictive. Beware addictions which distract you from your real-life problems.

I have been calling this the trans-cult for a long time. I lost my partner of 5 years to it, 5 years ago and he has ruined his life as a result. Perhaps our union wasn’t going to last anyway but he actually severed it by following this cult online and eventually going behind my back to get hormones from his doctor.

People often dislike former partners, but you are claiming she should be an entirely different person because you don’t like who she actually is, and feeling betrayed when she does not obey. She’s lucky to have left. Doctors should not prescribe your partner medicine without your say-so? What?

My first peak trans moment came with the forcing of the label ‘cis woman.’ What would you prefer? “Women, and trans women”? “Cis woman” is only necessary to distinguish from trans women- normally “woman” is perfectly fine for both.

Thank God for “peak trans”- these TERFs will make women trans-friendly because of their extremism.

Caravaggio St Catherine

Beauty contests

Beauty contests are misogynist- what about trans beauty contests?

Well, like those for cis women, they objectify women, judge us by our looks, and let men ogle women- with the added frisson that men can go- ooh, yuck- It was born a man! Not cool. Cis women’s beauty contests stopped being televised in the UK around the same time as the Black and White Minstrel Show.

Here’s the Daily Express on Pammy Rose. You would hope we would be beyond this: Pammy was “born a man”, apparently, rather than a baby; they tell her former name, and show pictures of her as a child; she felt like a woman in a man’s body; she wants to be a voice, representing trans people; she was bullied as a “freak” and a “tranny”; the first prize is a “sex change”.


There’s the Express with this oleaginously supportive “good news” story, with at the side a video of a bikini babe’s beach workout turning out badly, and another bikini babe’s zip wire jump turning out badly. I wonder how. Trans women are so courageous! It’s better than saying we are a threat, and should not be allowed in lavatories, but only just. I hoped we were beyond this, being judged for our looks, being stared at. The scrutiny is frightening.

She’s not a voice for me. The contest site is mostly photos. I came third in a beauty contest once, but it was just a bit of fun for ourselves, at a cross-dressers’ weekend away. I don’t really blame her, I suppose, it might feel empowering, she must advance her interests as she sees fit, but she is still being seen as a freak.

Here’s The Telegraph laughing at the winner Jai Dara Latto being forced to hand back her crown, accused of being a drag queen, a gay male rather than a trans woman. Rachael, the organiser, said,

Underwear is very important to transgender females – one of the first thing people do is change their underwear as it makes us feel like we are finally a woman. Oh, God! Like the Express, the Telegraph had pictures of Caitlyn Jenner.

It is not that Jai was “a drag queen”, something qualitatively different from “a trans woman”, but that she was not full time, contrary to the rules of the contest. Not fully committed, she allegedly spent some time presenting male. You might not want a man winning a trans woman’s beauty contest; and any other rule to exclude males might be subverted; but the Telegraph says it is about underwear.

It is exactly the same as cis women’s beauty contests. Both objectify women. I feel sick. Yet- here’s Pammy, making her way as best she can in the world. I wish her well.


Strong, bloody violence

from the start and throughout.

No, now Menelaus the great spearman ran him through
square between the blades as he fled and raced aheadtearing into his flesh, drilling out through his chest-
he crashed facedown, his armour clanged against him.

That’s nothing.

Meriones caught him quickly, running him down hard
and speared him low in the right buttock-the point
pounding under the pelvis, jabbed and pierced the bladder-
he dropped to his knees, screaming, death swirling round him.

Some characters have a brief introduction before they die:

Meges killed Pedaeus, Antenor’s son, a bastard boy
 but lovely Theano nursed him with close, loving care
like her own children, just to please her husband.
Closing, Meges gave him some close attention too-
the famous spearman struck him behind his skull,
just at the neck-cord, the razor spear slicing
straight up through the jaws, cutting away the tongue-
he sank in the dust, teeth clenching the cold bronze.

His killer pays him attention like his mother did? What? I was going to say that all these deaths come from one book of the Iliad, but so far they come from one page of the Robert Fagles translation.

Diomedes, aka Tydides, has gone bare-shirt, bare-sark, berserk:

Down the plain he stormed like a stream in spate,
a raging winter torrent sweeping away the dykes,
the tight, piled dykes can’t hold it back any longer…

As a lion charges cattle…

Here is the grief of war-

he ripped the dear life out of both and left their father
tears and wrenching grief. Now he’d never welcome
his two sons home from war, alive in the flesh,
and distant kin would carve apart their birthright.

Here, its joy:

“Now be men, my friends! Courage, come, take heart!
Dread what comrades say of you here in bloody combat!
When men dread that, more men come through alive-
when soldiers break and run, goodbye glory,
goodbye all defences!”

Diomedes attacks Gods!

he with his ruthless bronze was hunting Aphrodite…
gallant Tydeus’ offspring rushed her, lunging out
thrusting his sharp spear at her soft, limp wrist
and the brazen point went slashing through her flesh

She flees to Mount Olympus, where she is instantly healed, but Athena and Zeus mock her.

More death:

bronze splitting his belt and plunging down his guts-

Down they crashed like lofty pine trees axed…

stabbed him right where he stood, the spearpoint
pounding his collarbone to splinters…

deep in the guts the long, shadowy shaft struck
and down he fell with a crash as glorious Ajax rushed
to strip his armour…

The book ends, but the battle continues. Even the Gods are dismayed! Ares cries out,

“Father Zeus,

aren’t you incensed to see such violent brutal work?
We everlasting Gods… Ah, what chilling blows,
we suffer- thanks to our own conflicting wills-
whenever we show these mortal men some kindness.”

Eos and her son Memnon

Bathrooms and feelings

I did not suddenly decide I was a woman- only that I wanted to go out of my house and socialise with cross-dressers. I went to the Gay Village round Canal St. I used the loos. Then I thought I have to go where the straights go, so started to go to the Bridgewater Hall for concerts. Then I went to the supermarket, because I had to be able to do everyday things, if I was to transition. I got a card from the psychiatrist- “Clare Flourish is receiving treatment for Gender Dysphoria, and should use women’s toilets” or something- and carried it in my handbag but never needed to use it. Of course trans women who do not pass need to use women’s toilets, or they will have no chance of ever passing.

Some blog- google for the quote if you want to read the whole thing- says, By no means do I believe that transgendered people have intentions of HURTING people. I honestly believe they are just people who are hurting. But I also believe that someone who wants to hurt people will stop at nothing to do just that. If a bad woman, claiming to be transgendered, could go into a men’s bathroom and possibly hurt your son, who were in there alone, she would. Because the law gives her that right and takes away your son’s right. In the same, any man could claim to “identify as a woman” and have unrestricted access to my little girls in the restroom. She knows we are harmless, but still claims allowing us to pee causes some theoretical risk of assault.

What assaults? Here is the research. Human rights commissions from Colorado to Connecticut had not heard of such cases. Cries of “We must Protect Our Children!” are suddenly silenced when the topic of gun violence comes up.

Perverts may pretend to be trans, and assault women and girls. But then perverts may lurk in car parks and assault women and girls- or just assault women they know, in their homes and offices.

Ted Cruz is far more dangerous than Donald Trump, and his honest beliefs are popular. Scared people get more extreme. Some of the attack on us claims that we are sexually aroused perverts who are an actual danger of voyeurism or assault in toilets, and some of it is that women and girls may feel unsafe around us in toilets, and so their feelings should be protected rather than ours. Even if I am no threat at all, if someone imagines I am she must be protected from me. By physical violence if necessary, says this county sheriff candidate. If my little girl is in a public women’s restroom and a man, regardless of how he may identify, goes into the bathroom, he will then identify as a John Doe until he wakes up in whatever hospital he may be taken to. Seeking election, he calculates this will be popular.

It does not matter that we are not dangerous. They “feel uncomfortable” round us, so they will get violent. They are not ashamed of their irrational prejudice.

Caravaggio Medusa

Letting go of “femininity”

I look at cis women and see energy and vivacity; and I wonder, what does femininity mean? Is there any quality of “femininity” I share with them? Feelings, actions and interactions- are they distinctively “feminine”? Now fewer roles are specifically women’s: the Engineering department is the last part of the university which is mostly male, and after you have recovered from gestation and parturition your partner can share your maternity leave and take care of the infant. Human beings are malleable: an organisation will take its culture from its leaders, people have particular roles in families. Zimbardo and Milgram made people cruel, and women in England have much deeper voices than those in Thailand- this is cultural, not racial.

Some women seem comfortable with cultural concepts of femininity, and some rail against them. And everyone is different goo-gooing at a child- “Yes, you are!”- from typing a report.

Not really liking the idea that my transition was merely the outworking of a sexual fetish, I warmed to the idea that I am “feminine”. It is a sop, a comfort blanket, an excuse, a sign I do not accept myself- I transitioned because I am feminine and therefore transition is alright. No.

Gender Identity- Clare.
Sexuality- Clare.

I am me, and need no rationalisation or excuse. I have made my choices. And as I struggle to understand myself, “femininity” has been a prism through which I have seen my characteristics, judging myself, interpreting myself- I might understand better if I did not need to be “feminine”.

Though “femininity” has also been a way of seeing those characteristics as good, worthwhile, bearable rather than weak and unmanly.

This does not mean that I cease to see myself as feminine, even ultra-feminine; only that I don’t need it to be true, and I don’t need it to be other than a cultural construct.

There could be regret the other way. There appear to be normal people who have marriage and family. Anyone could look at another’s life and think, that might be preferable-

but it would not fit me as my own fits me.

Yes, I do feel so wrong sometimes that I wished someone entirely different occupied my space; but it would not be better for me.

We have good and bad luck, character, choices…

And I can mourn femininity. It seems to me that it is not valued by our tough, go-getting society, where ambition and drive are valued more than gentleness, which has always been vulnerable to being seen as weak. My feminine self could be more used, and valued, than I feel I am.

Bosch, John the Baptist in the Wilderness

The “A” Word

In The α word, people are more than cyphers, and no-one gets murdered. There is hope for British TV drama yet.

Joe’s life revolves around his self-soothing activities. Autistic and five, he blocks his family out with his father’s loud music, repeating what people say to him word for word, and walking off down the Pennine lane. Who can blame him? His mother approaches with a ghastly grin on her face, pretending that some activity she wants him to engage in will be delightful for both of them, rather than perplexity and misery. So he learns to block her: if she asks him anything he will say “Well, let’s see-” but nothing follows.

She wants him to express emotion, and because he does not in ways she can recognise she imagines that he does not feel. Certainly he feels, but as everyone else in the family is more concerned with appearance than reality- what should we be feeling? Let us pretend to feel that, even to ourselves- he would have learned that it is not safe to feel authentically or express feeling anyway.

She wants him to be normal, and enjoy normal things. She spots him briefly in the school playground with two other low-status boys, and invites them over for a sleepover, without any preamble or getting to know the parents. This is a normal activity and it must be undertaken, whatever the discomfort for everyone involved.

She is enraged and terrified, and when something appears to help Joe she is desperate for it to continue. She hangs around outside offices until people agree to see her, then shouts at them.

-You really got through to him!
-It was just a technique, the speech therapist tells her.

At one point, other boys are having a football party, to which Joe has not been invited, and the family choose to have a picnic in the same park. They knew the party was going on, and in the Pennine town there will not be more than one park, so this is ill-judged. The father has a football, which he attempts to kick to Joe, but Joe evinces no interest in kicking it back.

(How wonderful! You don’t want to do it, you don’t see the point, so you just don’t! Yet if we can communicate enthusiasm within a family or group, then we can share it.)

For some reason they wander over to the other boys, rather than fleeing. Joe gets in the middle of the field but does his random thing rather than conforming or following instructions. I find this unbearable. I am weeping in embarrassment.

Andrea Vaccaro, penitent Magdalene

Advice to writers

My friend is working on her latest book. She has published several. Advising others on their writing, she found that they assumed the reader knew too much. You need to guide the reader from the beginning. Writing, she finds that she needs to check herself: she lives with certain ideas, and moves on from them; so she might lose her readers. Don’t tell your conclusions without your premises.

That’s one of the advantages of the internet. We can go into our hugboxes, where we agree, generally, and one word can allude to many complex ideas we have thrashed out together. Like “hugbox”, an internet forum where all agree, where conformity is rewarded with agreement and extremism may fester. WordPress is not quite like that, but readers may return to my blog when they share my understanding.

And, she says, the life is in the writing when she is developing ideas as she writes; she has provided a synopsis for the publisher, but finds her ideas firming and changing, her arguments strengthening, new words and modes of expression coming to her. She balances writing that with what was promised.

(I did not take notes at the time. I had had two glasses of wine. Her ideas are filtered through my understanding and expression.)

I was low on Wednesday. On Thursday I was energised with a task: I had an article to write. It is a response to one in a magazine far above my league. I have emailed it to that magazine. They don’t bother with rejection letters:

We welcome submissions from journalists and others and will get in touch if we are able to use your piece. Unfortunately, due to the high amount of correspondence we receive, we are not able to respond to all submissions individually.

They might glance at a sentence or two of it. Unless it immediately grabs the attention of probably a fairly lowly employee, it has little chance of proper consideration. There is a great deal of luck in this. There are no submission guidelines on their website, so I did a brief cover saying “I write for The Friend, the Quaker magazine”. It is my best boast, writing so far.

After I emailed it- I wanted a quick response- I read it again and found I had not sufficiently explained the links to the article I was responding to. It is not a free-standing article on the matter, but a response.

It is gone. There are other things I can write, which may mean I have to make less effort here.

A man who had succeeded in angling competitions said he sometimes walked around the lake and showed the anglers their mistakes. He would tell them how to hold the rod, etc, and their technique would improve; then he would see them a week later, all their previous mistakes restored. I read wonderful articles on maintaining a relationship- communication is important, apparently- from men several times divorced and currently single. Seeing you are not taking the Good Advice is a first step.

My generous published writer friend had a look at my piece, and said I should use more interesting verbs and less careful, lawyerly exactitude. Oh dear, could I be seen as pedantic? I have to sit with that for a time if I am to learn from it.

Renoir, the two sisters

Thinking and feeling II

What do you think about it? and What do you feel about it? are different questions, eliciting different responses. Each is half the question, neither sufficient by itself. After, I wished she had asked, “What do you think about the job interview?” as I would not have sounded so silly, self-centred and irrelevant.

Ah. I still despise my feelings. I find them unconstructive. They get in the way.

That dispute. It is a pecking order thing. I altered the way a question was to be put to Area Meeting. I altered the expression of the question, not the issue to be considered. My motive was to facilitate discernment, which I felt would be disrupted by the poor formulation of the questions. K thought I was changing the issue, and told me I should not. She asserted that the original question had been put by a particular authority. When I showed this was in error, she approached J to seek reconciliation of our dispute.

The facts matter. Was the original question badly expressed? Did my rephrasing cover the same issue? That can be assessed. Then there is the feeling: when I act for the good of the group, I resent being accused of favouring my personal preferences. I resent being told what to do, without justification.

Now I assert, I am standing my ground for the good of the group. If the whole group sets our agenda, and debates it, our time is wasted. No-one else should criticise my agenda-setting without good reason, because the only efficient way to deal with agenda-setting is to delegate it to one person, who gets it mostly right. So my agenda-setting should be tolerated unless it is particularly bad. This is arguable, but may be rationalisation. I know what I want, and construct arguments that it is right. The argument emboldens me to keep contesting the matter.

Here thinking and feeling intertwine. The question is, “How do I respond?

Earlier, I thought, give up. Then it nagged at me. I could not give up. I analysed the matter and found a way to assert myself. So much of this is unconscious. It just seems to happen.

I cycled past Boughton House, thinking, I have about another hour to go. The late afternoon sun is beautiful. The inclines can be a bit of a bind. I saw a tiny deer, only the height of a golden retriever, staring out from the woods. Exercise is good. Now, I am committed. I encourage and chivvy myself along. There are different voices in me, seeming more rational or emotive, and their relative power varies in different situations.

Hammershoi, interior with potted plant on card table


Oh, wow. It just stopped! Was that a Tantrum?

Half an hour ago, I felt- enraged, terrified, completely confused and doubting everything, desolate and despairing. Now I feel- sort of alright, really. I need milk and meat, and it is a lovely sunny day to go down the town to get them.

There was a misunderstanding in an exchange of emails. I have spent much of the morning drafting a long, careful email dissecting what was said, demonstrating the origin of the dispute, her misunderstanding which was down to her misinterpretation of my words, and the reasonableness of my responses. Then I stated I want my reasonableness in these specific instances recognised. Then I went through it again stripping out some of the sarcasm; and finally I changed the addressee and wrote,

To put it another way:

I am feeling misunderstood and attacked. I don’t think that perception is wholly unjustified. I am feeling hurt and confused and angry. I am frightened of future interactions. I have other stuff in my life and I do not want to be dealing with this.

Then the other stuff in my life overwhelmed me. I needed a whole new way of interacting with other people. I just want to hide away and not see them even though I find my solitude unbearable. I thought of phoning the Samaritans- but how would I convince them I am not suicidal?

Let us establish ground rules. I am not suicidal, not a threat to myself or others. I can give you precise details to demonstrate this if you like.

Controlling, or what?

H phoned last night. She had not asked me how I felt about the job interview at her small party, so she was asking now. It was not an ideal time for that- it was just after nine, I did not want to be thinking of it just before bed then lie awake miserable- but I did not want to tell her this. And communicating by phone is not ideal- could we skype? No. We could not, and she explained why. Oh, okay then. Let’s see. I am miserable about the job, but also perturbed by an interaction at your party. She explained the problem is him, not me, which reassured me a bit. And I was very concerned about having been approached by a mutual friend to resolve a dispute and bad feeling between me and the other party in that exchange of emails. This felt to me like an attack, an escalation, an attempt to make me the Bad Person when I’ve done nothing wrong! Then I felt unable to explain what the dispute in the emails was, and irritated by it- an irrelevant triviality which had somehow got backs up and become terribly important. Explaining that I had been right only made it more difficult.

When talking to someone who disagrees, that difficulty in explaining is so frustrating! You’re NOT LISTENING! LISTEN TO ME! I want to scream that, and I don’t. Or, like William Brown, I’m just statin’ a fact! Even with someone who wants to understand my position-

You see I really do need better ways of interacting with others. The precise dissection of facts to arrive at a clear understanding which must then of course be mutual is always tempting, but not really possible even with an email exchange, leave alone a face to face interaction. It is so tempting! That is the curse of intelligence, that you imagine intelligence is the answer.

So, yes. It was a tantrum. That was how people feel in a tantrum. Then it just stopped.

Renoir, woman with a fan