Orthodox Judaism and trans

You have heard of trans women not being able to see their children. With the difficulty of transition, some of us cannot take on that additional fight. One I knew killed herself after being told her wife would not let her see her children, and at the funeral was erased: she was referred to only by her former name, as if a man had died. Now the English courts have ruled that a trans woman should not see her children, because they would be ostracised by their Orthodox Jewish community if she did. She can write four letters a year to each child.

To write this post, I have read the detailed statement of evidence and law by the judge, but not his own assessment and conclusion. It is clear to me that any child brought up in such a “community” will suffer significant harm.

People in this community are not responsible for their own lives. “Personal decision making is minimal, with all major concerns being discussed with one’s rabbi” [see paragraph 85 of the judgment]. J, the father who has transitioned, [58] knew at the age of six that she was different. She could not speak to anyone, and prayed to God to make it go away. Children in less controlling circumstances feel the same: I did not speak to anyone until aged 18. After fathering five children and twice attempting suicide by taking pills, she began to speak to a therapist outside the community. Broken Rainbow, the LGBT domestic violence charity, gave her confidence to leave. It has now closed down.

The community sees transition as “a defection from core values, and expressive of hostility and disrespect” [106]. The community cannot accept how badly it hurts its members, so blames those who leave.

The court-appointed Guardian accepted that within the community, the children could not make their own decisions about seeing their father [136]. Exposure to the outside world is seen as dangerous to the children, who are taught to see it as hostile to the Jewish community. The mother does not speak of J at all.

Children exposed to “outside influences” may be ostracised. The judgment gives examples of other divorced couples. One mother could not get her child into the school she wanted. “The school would not risk the influences the father’s contact with the child might have on the rest of the student body.” This, note, is the case of a straight parent. In J’s case, her son A’s head teacher said that if A met J he feared A’s religious commitment could be compromised.

In a case where a child was sexually abused within her family and the wider community from age 11-14, she was fostered through secular social services. She was not allowed to talk to friends, whose parents said they could not risk their children hearing about “things”.

J could not bear the thought that her son, aged 12, would be faced with her unexplained disappearance, so she told him fifteen months before that she could not carry on with the marriage, and that she was leaving five days before she did. This is held against her. The pain she has suffered, in being unable to be herself, attempting to conform, finding conformity impossible even though she knew how much it would cost her to transition, and now in transitioning and suffering all that loss, is used against her to show that she should not have access. Telling her son was seen as very bad indeed. Her own needs overwhelm her [120], she cannot prioritise the emotional needs of the children, which militates against contact.

Their interpretation of the Torah is completely against transition. Deuteronomy 22:5 forbids dressing in the clothes of the opposite sex, and Leviticus 22:24 forbids castration. For all religious purposes J will be considered male, will be required to give a Get, or religious divorce, to her wife [93], and as most social activities as sexually segregated would not be allowed to join either the women or the men.

The community fought viciously against J. Having so let her down, they project all their wrongdoing onto her. They threatened violence [61]. They refused to consult her about anything to do with the children, and would not accept maintenance payments from her. They rebuffed all her attempts at contact [25]. They made allegations that she had sexually abused her son aged 4, though the judge says “There is no credible evidence that J has behaved in a sexual manner towards D or any of the other children” [32].

The schools responded particularly badly. Minutes of a “Team around the children” meeting show their priority was to protect the community and enforce its “cultural norms around gender and sexual identity” [33]. The schools’ duty was to “uphold the religious ethos”. Other parents would “protect” their children from information shared by J’s children.

Fortunately, schools are restricted in England from so betraying their pupils. I am horrified that any still persist, but at least one has been shut down. It is unlawful for a school to discriminate against a pupil because of their association with someone transitioning gender [48]. The education regulations include a curriculum obligation to encourage respect for other people, paying particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the 2010 Act [50]. The school was forbidden to enroll new pupils because it did not enable pupils to learn of the existence of trans people. It must encourage respect of us, and other groups which suffer discrimination. Why the Department for Education is not shutting down other such schools, I do not know.

The law supports contact for parents. It is to be presumed that contact furthers the child’s welfare [38]. Children are entitled to the “love and society” of both parents. Court of Appeal cases on trans parents say children should have professional help to learn of their father’s transition so they can adjust to the change [41]. However the Guardian noted that required “a solid structure of support” for the children, wider than the nuclear family [129]. And yet J cannot see her children.

The eldest son is angry with his father. He blames J. “If he cares, he will leave me alone” [139]. He said his father had done him damage. The child cannot recognise that the damage comes from the Community failing to accept how human beings are, and imposing such terrible control.

You can download the judgment from this page.

Narratives

Truth [is] what we cannot change; metaphorically, it is the ground on which we stand and the sky that stretches above us.

And yet, the totality of facts and events is unascertainable. Who says what is always tells a story, and in this story the particular facts lose their contingency and acquire some humanly comprehensible meaningSorrow, joy and bliss become bearable and meaningful for men only when they can talk about them and tell them as a story.

I tell stories about my life. So do you. Possibly, with Krishnamurti I should just forget them. Why am I happy now? Because of X. Ah. That gives me an understanding, I can file it away. I know what is going on. I can remember that happiness later: it was caused by X. And if X also caused that misery, possibly the learning was worthwhile, possibly it is time to cease pursuing X.

Decisions are emotional not rational. It is like jars filling up with cumulative water droplets, and eventually one overflows and I must do X. Then I can tell a story about it. X was obviously the only thing I could ever have done, for these reasons. The story helps me accept what I have chosen, pacifies and calms my remaining resistance.

It is an end to thinking of the matter. I have thought enough. Or it is an attempt to end thinking; unconsciously, my resentment grows.

What we cannot change- so, what ought to be is meaningless and impossible and worthless. Ought is a damaging fantasy, because though you cannot make is from ought, it can make you disbelieve or resent what is. But what is includes what might be, what is possible, all the changes I can make.

I have read Truth and Politics by Hannah Arendt, and consider her thought that feelings become bearable when part of a narrative relates only to the conscious mind, thinking in language. The feeling of terror feels overwhelming until I accept and welcome it. What is overwhelming is its demand to be recognised, not the feeling itself. It fits Now. And then, it does not fit Now, so it goes away, unless I cling on to it, perhaps by questioning it or saying I ought not to have been terrified. Or I tell stories about it.

I can gain an understanding of feelings, at the price of them always being with me. Telling stories about my past might pacify my feelings- it’s alright, my honey, love, it’s alright, my poppet- but distances me from them; and they lurk, underneath, always liable to burst out, which is the constant failure. No game is enough to control my feelings.

Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it.

And- X may happen again! I will be terrified, again!

Words are so useful. Speech impels us… to urge the mind to aftersight and foresight. I think of what might be though probably won’t, because it will never be that bad again. I imagine the fear I would feel. Then I am afraid of fear, afraid of feeling fear and being powerless.

Yet normally I am not powerless; and powerlessness has to be bearable.

olga-boznanska-self-portrait

Cognitive dissonance and trans

The theory of cognitive dissonance holds that people wish their understanding of the world to be consistent, and when they become aware of contradiction they feel discomfort, or dissonance, which leads them to alter their understanding. Very powerful people may change the world instead. Or, in an absurd situation people will rationalise to produce a comforting illusion. It depends how committed you are to your fantasy- when the world did not end, fringe members of a cult accepted they had been misled, but the most committed members formed the view that the world was saved by the faith of the cult.

To reduce dissonance, one could change a belief or behaviour, but this can be difficult. You accept that smoking is harmful, but still are addicted. So, you could discount the information and decide to believe that the scientific link was uncertain. It would be healthier to believe the truth of its harmfulness, and recognise that smoking is a hard habit to break, but that is a belief in ones own impotence, which can be painful.

Or you can reduce the importance of your belief, saying that smoking is pleasurable, and therefore worth the risk. Against that, campaigners say the smell is unpleasant, and it makes you breathless now. It reduces the elasticity of your skin, so produces wrinkles now.

People go to great lengths to avoid cognitive dissonance. If you are forced to do something, you may persuade yourself that you did it freely, that it was a good thing for you to do it. When you choose between two alternatives, both of which have good and bad points, you are stuck with the unpleasantness of what you have chosen, and cannot have the good side of what you rejected. So, you minimise that good side- I would not have liked it anyway. You emphasise the good side of what you have chosen.

Or, you could accept that you had made the wrong decision. I did the best I could. I am not perfect, and do not have perfect knowledge. There is rarely one perfect choice among many bad alternatives- my choice was good enough, and it is better not to spend too much effort deciding.

People value the goals which have taken the greatest effort to achieve. Otherwise, they will believe their decision to take that effort was wrong. Anxious people are particularly likely to avoid dissonance, but some people can cope with a great deal.

Most of this comes from this article.

How does this work with me having transitioned, yet now not being gender essentialist? There is no essential “femininity” in women or “masculinity” in men, and the way we express them are social constructs, culturally conditioned. I am not a real woman.

I am intelligent, so have a complex, nuanced understanding of the matter, but I have dealt with the dissonance using self-hatred and a belief in the world as particularly threatening. I was wrong to transition but it was the best decision I could make at the time. It was the only way I could see to express my true nature. Transition is not really accepted in society, but being visibly queer we are tolerated: if at first I appeared to be normal but showed confusing signs I was not, that would be more unpleasant for others who would make things unpleasant for me.

I remain imprisoned in the need to have a consistent belief.

One alternative is to see the world and myself as inexplicable. That I have made bad decisions in the past does not mean it will always be thus. I am still alive. I am learning, so likely to make better decisions. Getting things wrong is rarely a complete disaster. Belief in possibilities- whatever happened before- might be more useful.

The need to believe in something gets in the way of seeing things as they really are.

alice-pike-barney-hollywood

Recent art work by Alice Pike Barney, her varying degrees of female fear and uncertainty. This woman looks nervous, but given the title- Hollywood– she may be the most confident of the lot! The next one seems under threat, but not surrendering, though resistance must be covert. I like her resistance, and found the title a shock.

alice-pike-barney-head-of-a-boy

It is “Head of a boy”.

Trans and Truth

I had my world-view blown apart. I knew what manliness was, how I should be, what was right and wrong, how the world worked or ought to work. A friend said in her teens she was looking at everything, trying to work out how it fitted, but I was quite sure. And there was this shameful thing which did not fit, so I rejected it. I cross-dressed, but that was not me, or involved in how I understood anything. But it would not go away. It was the loose thread, which I kept pulling, and it turned my world inside out.

The rejection of everything I valued was traumatic. I am lying on the floor weeping, repeating “I am not a man”. There is something I know to be true, even though it contradicts everything which makes me feel safe, even though it terrifies me. “I am not a man”. Then I devoted all my energies to making transition happen.

I find it hard to claim any good quality, but I am learning. I am intelligent. I am expressive. I am good with words. People tell me these things repeatedly, I find lots of supportive evidence, I have come to believe them. One person said, in delighted admiration, “You have fantastic emotional intelligence” and that has stuck with me, and also seems backed up with the evidence. I have emotional intelligence. I would not have believed it, when trying to make a man of myself.

I have difficulty asserting “I am a woman”. I would say, “I am not a man”, “I want to transition”, even “I am transsexual”. “I am Clare”. Possibly I don’t need to say that I am a woman, or believe it, just this is the way I express myself. I fear contradiction.

It was the thread I pulled, and expressing female seems like real me underneath the stifling convention, all that learned behaviour, learned understanding, useless concepts of manhood and virtue. But I have not created an alternative world view, just partial, contingent understandings. And especially while transitioning but also since I have sometimes had the feeling of being completely at sea, having no understanding-

the fact that I sense or believe something is no evidence for or against its truth or falsehood

of knowing nothing at all. It is disorienting, terrifying, nauseating.

In a world where Mr Trump is busy destroying the shared values and understanding of truth, this may be an advantage. These people believe the opposite of me- well, that has always been the case. I know how disorienting it can be to lose Truth as an anchor. Possibilities remain, and you have to be satisfied with that.

And Truth has mattered to me. It is true- transition is right for me. I am trans. I worried away at it- could it just be a fantasy or perversion, but it is not just that. Yet- it is important to me not to need anything to be true- I am a woman!- because it could be snatched from me at any time.

alice-pike-barney-medusa

Desire and action

Why does anyone do anything? They think it will advance their goals. It relieves an immediate discomfort- I feel a headache, so take a painkiller. I believe it will relieve discomfort in the future- in case I get other headaches, I buy painkillers. Or, they think it will give them pleasure. Positive feelings arise from experience, all slightly different- satisfaction, contentment, happiness, excitement.

Often, a person’s problems seem too great for them. This may be because they do not trust or know themselves sufficiently, and have too great fear of things which might not happen. So they seek an escape. A video game takes you into the now, in a way which is the Opposite of meditation: walled off from the world, concentrating on something brightly coloured in constant motion but unreal, with an endless stream of false feelings of achievement. I became addicted to Tetris, and weaned myself, then became addicted to Candy Crush, clockwatching until I could get more “lives” without paying for them. I don’t go near the things. I do like a glass of wine, though, and hang around my blog stats more than just to see what is being read.

Some level of escape is OK, some gets in the way of actually facing problems. In a vicious spiral, problems appear greater so you spend less time facing them. It is not always clear where the boundaries lie.

We are taught what will advance goals. I associate taking a pill with relief of an ache because someone told me it would work, I tried it, it worked. I clean my teeth because I learn to associate discomfort with not doing so, relief from discomfort with doing so.

It can be worth effort and concentration in pursuit of pleasure. Listening to Bach partitas at first I was bored and perplexed. I just wanted them to end. Now I find them beautiful. I have had epiphanies with art works, suddenly seeing them in a new way, appreciating after a long time looking, even years of familiarity.

I have false beliefs in what I might enjoy. This is what we as a family do for pleasure. So I go along with it. Later I still do it, expecting enjoyment where there is none. Seeing the false beliefs, seeing how empty some of my actions are, I lose trust in what I have learned and seek to learn what actually motivates me. I thought when starting my first job after University, I cannot endure this job. I must enjoy it. Yet I found myself enduring, then not enduring it.

Black and white thinking gets in my way. Cycling is effort with moments of delight. I want to notice and savour each delight without denying the effort. In work there was tedium and triumph: the achievement needs to motivate me, so I must see and prize it all, to its full value. Overwhelmed by everything, yet wanting more so much- acceptance of what is is the thing. Seeing what is possible. An endless puzzle, never worked out, the intolerable wrestle with words and meanings…

I lose motivation. I could do that if I wanted. I just don’t want to at the moment, I think- then tell myself that as fear and disbelief grow. And, I grow to like and value myself. I am worth looking after.

alice-pike-barney-firelight

Alternative facts

Does President Trump gaslight everyone? Alone with Ivanka, does he say, “My crowds on the mall were bigger than Obama’s”? As Melania sleeps does he lie awake, thinking “I won the popular vote, but for the fraudulent ones”?

I have known fantasists. You have, too. No, that pool attendant was never in the SAS. After dropping out of her law degree, F did not start an Open University degree- and if she did, she was not expected to get a First. And S, a trans woman, did not have XX chromosomes but an “SRY inclusion factor” which made her develop apparently male.

I have known other fantasists, I am sure, who were less extreme, less noticeable. People get away with it if they are careful. We preferred to call ourselves “Lifeguards” rather than “pool attendants”, because it seemed more important, effectual, worthwhile.

When Trump says the goodwill attached to his brand is worth billions, does he believe it?

Does anyone challenge him? Would Ivanka say to him, well, there are these photographs, but people seem to be accepting what we say? Does Mr Spicer believe his alternative facts? Do the Trump voters who assert there were millions of fraudulent votes believe it, or simply know that is what they have to say? Jesus was born of a virgin, the world was created six thousand-odd years ago, and Trump won the popular vote?

Some fantasists alter reality for others. Anna controlled her world in part by believing that her neighbours were snooping on her and that she could hear their dismissive comments through her wall. She turned her loudspeakers towards the party wall so that they could not hear her, but still said they managed. She insisted on this so unrelentingly that we stopped challenging her, even suggesting to her that she might be mistaken. “You hear that?” she would say. No, I didn’t. Even when she wasn’t there, I said how dreadful her neighbours were, and then met another’s disbelieving gaze, shamefaced. Yet he would not have challenged her to her face.

There are no common facts, known to both sides of the aisle, but alternative facts which justify Republican gerrymandering. Some facts are plausible. I believed Gerry Mander was the man who ensured there were no Catholic members of the Stormont parliament. Then I read the word comes from somewhere else.

Trump does not get it right, but escapes unscathed. His casinos went bankrupt and he transferred the losses onto others.

I like to believe in an enveloping Truth, consistent and coherent, but it is not possible. It is disputed whether you can prove 2+2=4. Theories of gravity do not fit the standard model: the equations divide by zero and produce infinity. It is unnecessary to know that James III died at the battle of Sauchieburn, or how my phone’s map finds directions- it just does. Possibly Trump knows all he needs to know, so need never read a book- his entitlement is limitless, all who oppose him are losers, there will always be a way out. Or his supporters have their enveloping Truth- abortion is murder, global warming is refuted by winter, Trump never lies to them- which gives them strength to get through the day. Very little truth actually matters in the moment. Imagination might be worth more: these things are possible.

Hannah Arendt wrote, the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world – and the category of truth vs. falsehood is among the mental means to this end – is being destroyed… The experience of a trembling wobbling motion of everything we rely on for our sense of direction and reality is among the most common and most vivid experiences of men under totalitarian rule.

I want a US president to believe certain things. Climate change matters, and may be mitigated. Some things are best done by the whole society, working together, such as health care. Supporting the poor benefits everyone. All these assertions are disputed.

alice-pike-barney-lunar

Binge. Purge.

The title “Recovering Crossdresser” might make you think of recovering alcoholic- a person who will always have the temptations but is doing their best not to give in. Take it one day at a time. However, this blogger keeps cross-dressing. He loves lingerie. He was worn a skirt and a top, occasionally, but that does nothing for him.

I am not here going to look down on the man. Anyone prejudiced against us would see no difference between him and me, except in degree. “This kind of trans are disgusting weirdos, that kind of trans are completely acceptable, almost normal in fact” said no non-trans person ever. I am weird enough not to mock another’s idiosyncrasies. I have fellow-feeling.

If I tell you not to think about an elephant, you will think about an elephant. I don’t know how not to think about something, but writing a blog, detailing exactly what he was wearing, is not it. It can feel that way. Naming it- one of the wife’s white lacy bras, plus my own recently acquired white suspender belt, white hold up stockings and one of my white g-strings– may bring back the feeling of revulsion which led you to purge all your stuff in the first place, but will also foster the incipient feelings of arousal. That’s the way it works.

His wife’s bra? Well, she wears sensible underwear, rarely bothering to have it matching, and almost never wears the sexy frillies he buys for her. I have not read the whole blog, but not saying stuff may be the saving of the marriage. He buys expensive lace, it sits in her drawer, does she expect him to get a message not to buy more?

Possibly, thinking of cross-dressing with as little detail as possible, and dwelling on the shame, the feelings of not being in control, and the experience of being caught might stave off the desires. It was the only time, he said, in April 2015. “All hell broke loose”. However, now she “loves” it when he has his whole body waxed. She might have made the connection, and might be hinting she could bear his cross-dressing. I hope so. It would take a lot of the shame away, and that might reduce the compulsion. It would just be something he did.

He may seek out the shame, though. He wears lingerie to work. He calls this “underdressing”. He is careful to wear baggy sweaters so that cami-suspender lines do not show. But he is self-conscious:

I felt sure that there were people passing me by, who, as I sat there, minding my own business, casually reading, were, I felt, taking a slightly longer look in my direction slightly longer than might be naturally expected.

Maybe it was just me, in a partial state of paranoia, but then again maybe it wasn’t. 

I wonder if he has heard of shadow-motivation- acting to achieve something you are not conscious of desiring. He wants to be found out, or wants that delicious state of paranoia. If they are studying him, it is probably because they see he is more self-conscious than usual, not that they guess he has women’s underwear on. More likely, he is just imagining it.

Fear and shame are a great deal of the excitement. People are aroused a lot of the time, including at work, but an employer might disapprove of doing things there deliberately to get aroused, and colleagues might object, as women object to men watching pornography in public. Or, getting away with it might please him, but how would anyone know?

Here we are, with our fear, shame and compulsions. I might like to be free of them, but is anyone?

Are you normal?

I went to the local church today. I was warmly welcomed. A woman invited me to have coffee with the congregation after, introduced me to others, and I was still chatting forty minutes later. She is a lovely person. She told me how much she loved the church, how she started going there, the social events it has, and I told her a little of my church journey. I could enjoy going there. It is a community, and I could be part of that community.

The hall has an internal door from the church, and we sat at a table. A couple and a single woman joined us, and my first host introduced them. She interrupted our conversation for brief chats about church business, and I turned to A., sitting on my right.

What can I say about A? I have seen her on the road to the town. Once I was pushing my bicycle, and we chatted a little about cycling locally. I have said “hello” to her since. Now, she seemed to be looked after by the others. How has her week been? they ask, solicitously. “You were going to see a friend.” A, talking to me, seems not nervous but watchful. How is it to be with a crowd of strangers, she asks me. Oh, lovely, I say. New people! I am Extrovert! She speaks simply and slowly, and it seems possible to me she has reclusive, possibly depressive, tendencies like I have.

The new baby- just a week old!- is brought over. We look delightedly at her, and the mother offers her to A to hold. A is nervous of this, but is persuaded. People take photographs- A must be smiling at the camera. Oh, you moved your head again. Possibly, looking down lovingly at the baby would do. The third picture satisfies my hostess- third time lucky, she says.

My hostess feels the need to explain A to me. She leans over, drops her voice in a confiding way, and says, “A’s twin died last year.” Oh. There is nothing to say to that. I don’t ask if the twins were monozygotic, or whether it was a month or a year ago. I could be insulted for A, or for myself. My hostess feels A is a person for whom we must make allowances. Do you think I did not see something about A that would result in my being confused or offended by her manner? Did you sense any discomfort in me, talking to her, or project your own?

I would hate to be explained in that way. “She’s trans, you know.” I was going to write it might be just about bearable if the person who was explaining me was rebuking the person being explained to- ‘How could you say such a crass, offensive thing? Can’t you see she’s trans?’ But even then it is patronising. Don’t say offensive things to anyone. Don’t protect me from knowing how offensive some people are, defend me against their offensiveness.

And yet I can see that my hostess is a lovely person. Absolutely she means well.

alice-pike-barney-laura

Transphobia II

Transphobia is like anti-semitism: people deny it exists. Just as there is clear anti-semitism, like the blood libel, and justified opinions which are not, such as opposing house demolitions in the Occupied Territories, there is clear transphobia and questionable opinions which are disputed. Some would say even the opinion that trans women should not use women’s public toilets is not transphobic, and work hard to produce the appearance of rationality and concern for the vulnerable, arguing that. Perhaps trans folk would extend the definition too far.

Some people have a Yuck reaction to us. As with anti-semitism, many of them get self-righteous about it, like the woman who objects to the feminine presentation of trans women, claiming any feminist would find that presentation disempowers women, as if we had the power to be fashion leaders. How calm is that person, really? How far do they want to exclude us from ordinary life? What proportion of their writing concerns trans women, rather than other feminist concerns?

It seems to me that some people cannot imagine that yuck reaction, and I wonder how I can convince them. A man in the shopping mall who had never seen me before hissed “f–king nonce” as he passed me, and I wondered what I had done that he so hated me. A group of drunk young men on the train, and one shouts, “Oh look, it’s a tranny”, and they continue shouting until they get off. Fortunately my friend was in First Class, safely apart from them. Just possibly, that might be societal transphobia rather than individual, deliberate hatred; not all of them are repelled, but none stops the others from shouting and perhaps they would say, “But, it’s a tranny! Wouldn’t everyone shout at a tranny?” if asked why they were shouting. Just boisterous young men with normal animal spirits?

A shopper takes a second look at you, and exclaims, “It’s a man!” But she was just shocked and surprised, and vocalises a passing thought, as anyone might stare at someone a little out of the ordinary.

“F–king nonce,” though. Calling me a sex offender. No idea who I am beyond reading me as male, dressed female. That’s not a normal reaction to people like me, surely? Might you believe that it was phobic?

If someone I think of as a friend could imagine herself exclaiming “It’s a man,” the first time she had seen a trans woman in the street, could imagine herself feeling “Bless my soul” levels of shock, because, well, trans women really are out of the ordinary- even though perfectly acceptable-

could someone be my friend, chat happily with me, then say, “Well, you are a bit weird, really. You aren’t normal. I don’t hold it against you, I like you, really…”

but me being trans is if not the elephant then the sweaty runner’s shirt in the room, which we don’t see but which insinuates itself into everyone’s nostrils…

How widespread is the “I am perfectly accepting, but face it you are a bit weird” sort of attitude? Would they say, “Surely everyone’s like that, I would not shout abuse but I would notice, surely you can’t object to that?”

Am I too sensitive?

Transphobia exists. “F–king nonce” is an example of that. Yet friends don’t seem to realise.

A man. I hear he is now in prison: he did not attend the first sentencing hearing, threatening suicide, but did attend the second a day or two after I had the misfortune to meet him. He came to the Quaker meeting once and left after ten minutes, not liking the silence. Then he came a few weeks later just before we were about to finish, and we gave him a cup of coffee. He sat in the corner. We did not start a conversation with him, nor he with us, but I took him over the cup of coffee and offered him a biscuit which he declined.

People were leaving, and he made no sign of wanting to, so I told him we needed him to leave. He objected. I explained and he said, “I don’t know if you’re a man or a woman” and continued objecting, standing close to me, and waving his hand near my face. At this point people notice and come over to see what is going on. They see me in a confrontation with a man.

So after he has actually left, I explain what happened, and someone says, “Well, that’s your account of it.”

Honestly, what? It’s transphobia. Have you no memory, no gay friends, you never saw someone abused simply because he was gay? That man could only object to me if I had done something objectionable? The EEUghH reaction, the hatred, for Jews, black people, gays, Manchester United supporters- some people are prejudiced and react violently- you are aware it exists, right?

Can you not imagine that someone might be prejudiced against people like me, without any other reason? Do you sympathise with their shock or revulsion? So, you look at me, disbelievingly, without sympathy when I explain how horrible the situation had been, and how can I possibly get through to you?

giulio-aristide-sartorio-malaria

Not worthless

Night. Hours pass. Awake, and awake, and awake.

The strangest thing in my psyche, which I thought was insane, which I tried to correct, which still affected me, is how I see myself- at once, the centre of the universe and completely worthless. Of utmost importance and none. So I thought, I am a human being- fearfully and wonderfully made, yet one in seven billion- which is the rational position between these extremes, but the extremes still affect me. And I feel that being Worthless, and patiently learning to value myself, is the way to escape the extremes, as being the centre of the universe is merely a panicky, angry reaction to the feelings of worthlessness, which gets me nowhere.

I have a right to exist. I go back to imagining early childhood, not feeling welcomed or accepted. Imagining that I did not feel welcomed, whatever, how could I know, inner critic says I could not know, I assert it anyway. I learn that I have no right to exist except for what I can achieve, and feel resentment and anger. I revolt against that, to

I am the centre of the Universe

Yet from the very beginning that did not work. It is a defensive arrogance which I saw through, which had no effect on others. My minimum assertion is,

I have a right to exist

and that becomes important for me, for my survival, for my self-acceptance, for being worthless is intolerable for me. But I have to prove it- I have a right for what I can achieve. How could I demonstrate that I have a right to exist?

I am a good person

A good person has a right to exist. The problem then is that I have to define what a good person is, and prove that I am one. I continually fail- I thought, I lie to myself because I want to see myself as a good person. Proving my goodness to my own satisfaction becomes more important to me than any external goal.

I want reassurance. It will be alright, won’t it? I want that from another. My fear became unbearable, so I suppressed it, and now I work to calm my own fear.

No justification for myself is necessary, and none is possible. I am a human being. This kind of reassurance is not possible. “It will be alright” means only “I care about you and I want you reassured in this moment”- I don’t know, you don’t know it will be alright. In fact it won’t. I will die. I may age into infirmity and confusion. Seeking the justification- I have a right to exist, I am a good person- gets in my way, prevents me from achieving what I might want to achieve, diverts my energies.

Anyway, after boredly playing all sorts of programmes on the BBC Iplayer, I noted down this, which is half way between poem and hurried note, which I want to preserve:

I have a right to exist-
battered down, not accepted.
I have no right to exist, only for what I can do, be achieve
Resentment, anger, revolt
I am the centre of the universe
and nothing, and misery
and seeing this is not true, does not work,
I am not that. Yet
I have a right to exist!
A slight reassurance, a questioning- it will be alright, won’t it? I might
go out into the world. Then
I have no right to exist,
and yet, I do

Shedding the justifications
They justify, reassure, give me knowledge that I have a right to exist
I am a good person
and then I become dependent on them
Continually needing to prove them true
they become masters not servants
and I am terrified they are not true
No justification is necessary.
I will not survive
I will stop existing when I stop,
and till then exist.

I may dance, and refrain from dancing

girl-on-the-beach-pierre-puvis-de-chavannes