Freezing

I am a “woman trapped in a man’s body”. Except I am not. Brian Cox refutes concepts of ghosts, souls, minds separate from the brain with CERN, the particle accelerator. CERN shows how baryonic matter- electrons, neutrons, protons- interact. It excludes any spiritual stuff exerting an influence on those protons. If they did, CERN would have observed it.

Do I have a “woman’s brain”? It is unclear, and strongly disputed. Last century, neurologists observed how people with impairments had particular damage to the brain, and deduced that the damaged part had the function impaired; but now we learn of brain plasticity, where experience alters the brain itself. It is hard to distinguish the effects of nature and nurture. Women give birth, and are generally though not universally smaller and weaker than men. I cannot name a single characteristic of women but not of men which I share with women, otherwise than by medical or surgical intervention. Some cis men are more “feminine” than some women.

I would rather think of it as a matter of desire. I desire to express myself in this way. I only know my true nature from how I behave, though I might have potentialities which I have not developed because of circumstances. Given my circumstances, I choose to behave in this way.

We know it is an ancient and wide-spread behaviour. Deuteronomy 22:5 forbids it. People do it spontaneously, and culture forms around it: in Norse mythology it is simply a disguise, to achieve a manly end by deception, not self-expression as an end in itself. It was more important to me than anything else in the world. And before that, resisting the desire felt like a matter of life and death to me.

I remain at war with myself. It seems to me I have a kernel- or colonel, giving orders, which will not be denied- with particular feelings and responses, and overlaid on that responses to the underlying feelings. Desire, and terror or revulsion, which led me in the 1990s to buy clothes then throw them out a score of times, and now-

Now, I freeze and go into avoidance behaviour. Deep Space Nine on TV, again, and as I have forgotten it and did not watch much of the later seasons, and have a lot of time, I watch it. In Profit and Lace, Grand Negus Zek decrees that females can leave their houses and seek profit like males, and Quark has surgery to appear female in order to- achieve something plot-based, but mostly produce laughter and embarrassment as well as a few gender-political points. I found it embarrassing. There is Nog, running, desperately trying to whatever, and I reached for the NYT to take my mind off it. Then I paused it, and considered- I can watch it, stop it, or pay it a little attention while I glance at opinion articles. I do not want to watch it as it embarrasses me. I do not want to stop it, because I do not want to (appear to myself to be) running from it. That would be- cowardly, or something. I picked up the computer, saw this was avoidance activity, take my mind off the original issue, and could not decide to put it down or read it.

I froze. I knew reading the plot summary that it would be embarrassing. Now, I was consciously confronting a choice which I made unconsciously so often- watch, switch off, avoidance behaviour reading while it is on, and all options revolted me so I froze between them unable to do any. Well, either watch or switch off, but do not read while it is on, that is the freezing itself, not paying attention, waiting for the problem to go away. Then, do not switch off- I will confront my embarrassment, because I need to be able to confront. I took an age to decide, hating myself that this which should be nothing would be a problem for me, then watched. It takes courage to see entertainers make jokes about the thing most important to me. I will not run from it, even though no-one sees me running. Courage- or ridiculousness, worrying about nothing, freezing rather than acting. I frame or express this in moral terms, which may increase my confusion- I want to turn it off, but I want to imagine that I am brave, and might imagine that it was cowardly to turn it off.

In that context, the theory gives me permission. I am a woman. I want to behave in such a way, present in such a way, because I am a woman, and because I am a woman I am allowed to behave like that. Then the theory is attacked. Of Course I am not a woman, say the radical feminists, the conservative evangelicals, and even the psychiatrists who call a trans woman attracted to men “homosexual”. And I am bereft, pulled between desire and revulsion, without a compass to guide my actions.

It seems to me that the revulsion will only prevent me from doing things, or will make me conform to behaviour which seems to me to be acceptable to others in a joyless, dead way, the only motivation bare survival. And the desire, to behave like a trans woman, at least gives me a positive motivation. Yet a man who had given up heroin told me that the world merely seemed grey and joyless without it. When I was buying clothes and throwing them away, it seemed like addiction. Nothing makes sense to me. Yet I will seek out that kernel, to use it as my guide, and seek to pass through the fear and revulsion.

breslau-self-portrait

4 thoughts on “Freezing

  1. You can’t be a woman. You can chose a female gender role but not be the female sex. Your sex is male. That’s a brute fact. You can alter your surface body parts by surgery but you can’t be what you never were. You can’t choose your biological sex. You can’t switch all the sex-related development during gestation and early infancy. You simply don’t have this necessary biology. All you can do is try to play catch-up but it’s like trying to alter the root system of one plant and turn the corn stalk into a rose.

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      • Recognizing a brute fact is not a partisan issue, not an ideology, and the fact cannot be summarily dismissed or refuted on this basis (“Of Course I am not a woman, say the radical feminists, the conservative evangelicals, and even the psychiatrists who call a trans woman attracted to men “homosexual”.) No. This is said by anyone who understands the brute fact that sex is fixed by biology. Recognizing this fact matters because recognizing what is and then working from there is quite different that creating a fictitious starting point and then battling to comport reality with the fiction. The clue is the inevitable confusion that must follow the latter path (“I am a woman. I want to behave in such a way, present in such a way, because I am a woman, and because I am a woman I am allowed to behave like that.) This order is wrong and it is a source of great confusion causing elevated stress and distress when ‘the world’ refuses to yield.

        From where I sit, there is a world of difference between one’s sex and one’s gender identity; the former is a fact of biology, the latter a social construct. You desire the identity built from the construct and think to use biology as if this is the source of your gender identity and anyone who disagrees is some kind of extremist. No. Just no. This understanding of the correct order, the one that is supported by reality, sets the foundation for what it is you’re trying to be to avoid the discomfort of being what you are. And what I read is a lot of confusion about which is the source, about which is fact and which is identity. You don’t need to alter the former to live with altering the latter nor do you need to pretend your sex is not fixed by biology to justify your desire to change genders.

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        • Your response is useful feedback. Perhaps I should structure what I wrote differently, or put in more clues. I thought I made it clear that I did not accept what I called a “theory”- the theory gives me permission. I am a woman. I want to behave in such a way, present in such a way, because I am a woman, and because I am a woman I am allowed to behave like that. I no longer accept the theory, yet I still want to express myself female.

          I want this simply for itself, and that confuses and distresses me. I suppose I cannot accept a simple want. My mind goes into a tizzy, believing I can only want something if it is right to want it or I ought to want it. Perhaps I fear what the simple desire costs- if I ought to want it, it ought not to cost too much or be too difficult. This is the way my mind works. I would like to relate it better to reality.

          Reality seems to be as you say. I want to express female. The culture contains widely different responses to this, from the law which humours me, calls me female, protects me from discrimination in supply of goods and services, housing, and employment and in some circumstances from harassment, which includes referring to me as male, to some determined activists who reject the theory, and think that entitles them to reject other stuff.

          I want a crutch, and cannot find one.

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