Getting by

Drink is a great anodyne- I had forgotten how boring people are. I’d forgotten how afraid people are. I’d forgotten how boring I am. Richard Burton shows how great self-hatred can be, when we temporarily let go of our safety-valves, or our escapes. Only drink is capable of killing the pain.

On facebook, I asked, Am I too nice? Rather than the journalist’s question “Why is this [person] lying to me?” I meet someone and think, “Seems like a reasonable sort”. And of course a friend came up with the answer: I think you are very nice. I also think it is possible to trust too much. Trust has to be built. Having to rely on untrustworthy primary carers tends to shut down the discernment in this area.

Not too nice, then. I am glad, I am pleased with being nice, and kind, even generous, and would not like to have to be less nice. Too trusting, though. It makes sense, actually. The helpless baby and the unmotivated mother, finding duty and convention not enough to drag her through all the effort, though practicality bridged a lot of the gap. My mother was in no way chaotic.

“Ask Machiavelli” said another. Possibly one can be too suspicious. If others connive as Niccolo advised, perhaps I am not suspicious enough. How could I know?

It seemed to me that I cried when I attempted to suppress awareness of my sadness, and another part of me needed to make my consciousness aware of it. If you break your leg the pain stops you trying to walk, and crying makes you deal with the matter now, or at least aware of it. That baby, not feeling my needs satisfied, tried not to be aware of need, and now sometimes I seem to be a monster of need and desperation.

I need human contact. I need sympathetic conversation, sharing feeling, and touch. I want hugged. Being kissed would be good too. And I have not been out three days of the last four, and on the one when I went out my encounter was only food shopping. It is a human need I bang on here about a great deal, and I get by with minimal contact, as the baby might, never satisfied but bearing the burden of her need, unable to do anything else, lying in the cot or pram.

So my need sits, under the level of consciousness, and I am more or less alright typing here or watching TV. Now, stressed by that ongoing confrontation, I am not doing the washing that I should do, but usually I do enough. Then my need erupts in a giddy feeling of groundlessness- I must talk through that with her, just to speak about it. I want to be told, there, there, it will be alright. I am all at sea, and my feeling of need overwhelms me, and then an hour later it is past. She cannot answer that question for me. Possibly, it will not be alright. The worst I might anticipate is X, the best hope for is Y, something not anticipated might happen. I would like the contact, and do without it. I can’t imagine explaining to anyone why I wanted it. I would sound too silly, too demanding, too much of a bother. I know this as the baby knew it. Yet I want time when my pain is not killed, time when I am conscious of it and not using the anodyne.

giulio-aristide-sartorio-la-gorgone-e-gli-eroi

I had always thought of the gorgon as hideous, and the winged sandals as Perseus’. These heroes do not appear turned to statuary.

Trans refutes gender as social construct

“I love you,” she said.

“That’s what you’re for,” I said.

It was my niece, who had not started school, who went through a phase of telling adult relatives repeatedly “I love you”. She has grown up caring with good emotional intelligence.

If women are formed to be feminine, and men masculine, by nurture, subtle clues, and social enforcement, how come did it not work on us? The old response that feminine men are ill, “inverts”, because of an absent father and overbearing mother, relied on an idea that men really were supposed to be masculine, but increasingly people don’t accept an ideal nature, to which people should aspire, separate from the actual nature people actually have. I can’t aspire to be different. I tried. I can only shut down aspects of myself; so I aspire to fully realise all those aspects.

People benefit if they fit the stereotypes. They are clearly harmful for women. Consider Mrs Clinton, portrayed both as not proper leadership material- because of her femininity- yet nasty, when she did not conform. She loses both ways. What I have read- stuff off the internet, not an organised course of study- has mostly been about women’s oppression. Some goes too far. I read that BDSM is wrong, because men dominate women. Even in “femdom” the sub is really in control. Is it completely impossible, I wonder, for women of their own free will to indulge in kink? If they believe they do, are they in error?

I know men are restricted. If some feel that it is better to express themselves as women than as men, the motivation for such a drastic step is severe restriction. It makes sense to me that we are not a class apart, the “transsexual”, but the end of a spectrum of men more or less restricted by male stereotype- either because they really do not conform, or because they particularly care about it. Men are oppressed, women are oppressed, and I will not speculate on whose oppression is more painful, restrictive or damaging. From the point of view of earning money, women’s oppression is clearly worse, but earning money is not the sole measure of fulfilment.

That the social control to create conformity does not work on a number of people does not mean it is not there. Our suffering indicates there is that pervasive social control. Without it, we would be free.

There is social control. It does not fit people, and we suffer because of it- perhaps a majority of people suffer to some degree. Carl Rogers argued everyone suffered: there are shadow parts to each person which that person cannot acknowledge.

What is the answer? Society should be organised in the interests of all, not just the powerful, so that everyone can reach their potential. Of course, I have no idea how. But trans demonstrates that the social construct does not fit humans, and does not benefit humans.

giulio-aristide-sartorio-the-siren

I am here

With my life as it is, all I have to do is ensure that I have enough food in. I could even wait until I had not, and go to buy it then. If I don’t have milk, I can’t have tea or cereal with milk until I buy some. I don’t have to tidy my living room, or clean the filthy basin in my bathroom.

If I don’t clean my teeth, I feel uncomfortable, and if I don’t have enough fruit I feel out of sorts. I love fruit. Peaches in the summer, though I could get expensive ready-to-eat peaches now, but sweet conference pears are almost as good for intensity of flavour and juiciness; grapes, plums, and citrus- tangerines, satsumas, clementines, whatever.

I love pictures. I love the mannered strangeness of Giulio Aristide Sartorio, my latest happen-upon. I keep telling myself I could get the train to London to the Tate, which always has wonderful exhibitions. Getting to Swanston, getting the train, getting across London takes trouble and expense, but it is manageable. I have not got round to it. I am unsure why not.

I have managed to strip my life down to minimal challenge. I blog a lot (I like blogging.) I watch a lot of television.

How I respond to challenge may be the issue.

I am in trouble. Various people are going to meet to address the problem of Clare, and may come up with a solution I do not like. I have a knack for focusing tensions in a group around me, and while I feel those tensions are the problem rather than my wickedness, I am unsure I could convince them of that. Hollyoaks has nothing on the way I manage my personal relations. There is little I can do, I just have to wait until they have met.

I would like someone to give me a hug and say there, there, it’s going to be alright.

I have had the thought,

I am here.

Now, I am finding what that might mean. This morning, I cycled into Swanston for the fruit stall. It was not there last Tuesday, but was today, perhaps because the weather was better. I could always ask them why they don’t come. I got apples, plums, grapes, and satsumas, much cheaper than the supermarket. I am pleased.

If I cycle, I save the bus fare, but there are costs to this. That hill is hard work. It’s cold. I will get sweaty and possibly smelly. I don’t like the jacket (I could replace it). Most of the road is between hedges which are ugly, and much of the landscape beyond is featureless. The sun, and the brightness, are beautiful. An overtaking driver gave me far too little room, so that when I swerved to the right to avoid a pot-hole just as he passed me, he was frighteningly close.

Three miles from home, I address the thought, I am here. There is beauty where I am. I have an effort to make. It seems to me my ways of dealing with the efforts I have to make are denial and resentment. I deny the effort. Anyone with the slightest resilience, anyone with any value as a human being, would find them minuscule and unworthy of notice. (Therefore I have no value.) Then I resent. I should not have these difficulties.

There is some pleasure in facing where I am. Three miles to cycle, with some climbing. These delights, and these difficulties which matter to me. These blessings and the forebearance of my situation keep me safe enough.

I look out the window at the sunset. The sky is so beautiful!

giulio-aristide-sartorio-wee-boys-smile

What does she think of me?

giulio-aristide-sartorio-festival-the-armistice-of-villa-giusti

This cannot, of course, be known, but there may be indicators.

What do I know of her?
What interactions have we had?
How does she respond to me?

I thought, I cannot imagine that she thinks of me something I cannot think of myself; but I can, if I realise she might think something of me that is not true.

I do not need to believe what she might think of me to be true, and imagining that she thinks it of me nonetheless might help me believe that it might be true.

How many steps from what I may observe and ascertain are we willing to go? Any number, but the further we go, the more speculative it becomes, the less certain I might be.

It is easier to imagine she thinks of me bad things- an irritant, not worth the effort, a project because some people get warm feelings of self-regard from helping others. She wants to see herself as a good person.

Well, I want that for myself. Doesn’t everyone? Stuck between the thoughts of “Oh God, I thought only I was like that” and “Doesn’t everyone?”, I am continually surprised. I feel isolated.

Or I could play lawyers’ games. We do not need to believe something- what is possible, is there any evidence for it? Think outside the box. When I did Myers Briggs it seemed I could express how I wanted to be, what I admired.

If you have enough humility, it may be impossible to humiliate you. This may be a strength, because you cannot be prevented from doing something by the risk of humiliation, or a weakness because you see no need to avoid humiliation. It all depends.

I want safety, but my ways of seeking it make me unsafe. In particular I do not act because I want certainty of success before acting, and have stringent ideals of what success looks like.

What stories do you tell about yourself, and what do they achieve for you?

“I am a victim”.
-So, I am not to blame for my situation.
-So, there is nothing I can do about it.

Blame does me no good, especially self-blame, but it is my habit. Could I let go of it, without seeing myself as a victim?

What stories do you tell others? Would they tell you if they thought them untrue? Would you be able to hear them if they did?

I want to extend my range of possibilities.

giulio-aristide-sartorio-awakening-on-xxiv-v-mcmxv-italy-declared-war-on-austria-hungary

Humility

I had a good working relationship with Ann until my transition, which she found revolting. Before, we would discuss clients we had in common, discuss common problems, and support each other in the stresses of the office. We had a good, friendly working relationship. After, she was revolted by my expressing female. “Eugh”, she said. She was almost apologetic about it, it was just the way she felt, and we kept apart as much as possible. I still liked and respected her, and could even accept her revulsion- it was just one of those things.

What did she think of you, before?

It is strange thinking of my levels of comfort answering that. Er, alright I suppose, he does his best, bit irritating sometimes… claiming “she liked and respected me” felt deeply uncomfortable. Thinking about it, it might be true. I was alright. How would I know? Well, we got on, and she was a good worker without infinite, saintly forebearance. It was a good friendly working relationship, though we would have little in common now.

Someone referred to my “humility”.

I do not want humility as a virtue. That reminds me of Jesus’ line, “They have received their reward in full”. I do not want to show humility which can then be noted by others, chalked up on my credit side, be part of the evidence that I am a good person- because then it would always have a tincture of hypocrisy or self-delusion. I do not want it for itself but for what it might achieve, perhaps making me better able to see reality and make predictions. If Ann regarded me, before transition, better than I did myself that is at best a mixed blessing. Humility has value insofar as it helps me know the truth, and no further. There are advantages in arrogance in some circumstances. Humility made it easier for me to accept Ann’s response and try to achieve a better working relationship, which efforts benefited us both. Humility making it difficult for me to articulate that she found good points in our relationship before my transition has no good effect. It is painful for me, and inhibits my clearly seeing what is. It may inhibit my actions.

What do they think of you?

I don’t know. I just don’t know. Or, a complex web of shifting impressions, one of which may have assumed great importance to another even though I don’t remember it. Or, I have an idea, which must always be open to reevaluation, for the pattern is new in every moment. Some good things. Some not so good, and I might not really understand either.

The “humble” Uriah Heep in David Copperfield is not repulsive because of humility. He knows his station, and he remarks on it, but he resents it, and his resentment is his excuse for whatever dishonourable clandestine manoeuvrings he uses. When he alludes to his humbleness and humble station and need to show proper humbleness and gratitude, he is a hypocrite, not feeling that gratitude. If he could see beauty as well as cruelty in the world he might use better means. He is humble about his station, but arrogant about his desert.

frank-reynolds-uriah-heep

Gift of days

We will meet in the place where there is no darkness, says O’Brien, and it sounds wonderful. No darkness, a clear mystic metaphor for truth, answers, understanding, enlightenment. It is that, literally: in these cells and corridors the lights are never turned off. But all Winston achieves there is the knowledge of his powerlessness, and that he will do anything, however depraved, in order to survive.

In Gift of Days by Mary C. Morrison, she describes her illness around the time of her 91st birthday. She nearly died from an infection, which weakened her so that she could not turn over in bed. She suffered paroxysms of shaking, so that she tried desperately not to shred her lips with her teeth, and wanted to die. “No, there’s more,” said a voice, as inexorable and terrifying as the Raven’s “Nevermore”. With occupational therapy, with the workout that is everyday life for a person in that position, she regained the ability to get about her house, to prepare her meals, to go outside her front door; this was after she started writing again, and found her hand illegible.

Something she had known how to do. How could it be that she could no longer do it?

She continued writing.

Possibly, she wanted to. She wanted to die, and she could not. She wanted to write, she failed, she failed again, she succeeded. She wanted to get back to her house, and she succeeded. When there, she found a way to silence her monkey mind. “Can’t you just stop thinking?” A total impossibility as far as I was concerned. Yet with three spoonfuls to go of her breakfast cereal, It came into my head to wonder if I had ever really stopped still enough in my mind to taste, savor, enjoy, really experience the pure pleasure of it. So she did. For once I was really there, truly present to the experience, I was living, not just thinking, thinking, thinking all the time.

What? 91, and only just learning to do that?? I can drop into that whenever I like; though relating it to what I must do is difficult, beyond cleaning my teeth, or eating.

Or, perhaps, writing. I am writing. I don’t care if you get anything out of this (she says bravely- of course I care- Please Comment!). It is for me.

Possibly, her task was to live as an old woman, cleaning her house, talking to visitors, writing. To live as herself. Other parts of the pamphlet might grasp my attention if I read it again.

Am I really squeezed out? Tried and found wanting so often that there is nothing left to try, known so that no game is worth playing any more, you can predict my tiresome response. Then we need a modus vivendi, and if there is no pleasure in it the important thing is to avoid pain.

Well, that is the worst way it might be.

Or that job. I thought about it, thought of applying, did not, approached the deadline and still did not. They did not recruit, so readvertised. Today at noon was the second closing date, and I did not see my friend yesterday because I wanted the energy to do the application. Instead, I wrote a poem, did my washing, watched TV. Today at nine I could have written something, even something I thought might appear sane, on the application form. So I thought about this, and about mystic understandings of what it means to be human- the way wherein there is no ecstasy- until I had no time to put anything worthwhile on the application. Then I watched TV.

The concept of a job application is simple. Do you want the job? Have you a reasonable chance of getting it, or, is the chance of getting it worth the effort of applying? If so, then you apply. Simply because of good luck, in this precise moment I do not have to apply in order to get money to eat. Jobseekers Allowance has the soul-destroying requirement of making a certain number of applications, whether you fit the job or not, pretending to apply because otherwise you will not get the JSA money.

It seemed to me that what mattered, considering that job application, was my self-image. I hope I have these particular gifts and qualities, fitting me for this job. I fear I have not. In applying, rather than wanting to get the job I want to shore up my hopes- yes, I am that admirable person- and stave off my fears, which overwhelm me.

I procrastinate because I imagine applying, and seeing my hope confirmed in my own words; but fear all my fears being proven. And there is outside judgment as well: on the few jobs I have applied for I have almost always had interviews, so gone through a process of judgment, and been found wanting- though people might console me, they preferred someone else, it did not mean you would not have been suitable. Though it did mean I did not get the job.

Self-image is so important to me that I might make a grand gesture to prove my noble generosity, only to find afterwards it proved nothing of the sort and I ended without anything I might want.

You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.

Self-image. Failure after failure after failure!

the knowledge derived from experience…
imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment

Possibly the most clear thing he wrote

And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been.

Oh Christ! Eliot understood this problem of self-image! Or at least, those words have this so personal meaning for me now.

Would that I could create a rule. That self-image or valuation is a fantasy. So, stop fantasising! But fantasy is the way humans work out what is possible, if we can resist the temptation of wallowing in fantasy of what is not possible. These two types of fantasy are not clearly distinguishable except by hindsight.

The best rule I can come to is, Appreciate. See all the good, all the things it is possible to be grateful for, all the things which could possibly be said to please, rather than always seeing failure. It seems to me that is a choice- cry for what might have been (in fantasy) or delight in what is. What is seems so little, but is all there is. No wonder we distract ourselves with alcohol or television.

My idea of Wisdom and what it could do for me gets in the way of true wisdom and gaining anything from it.

This is good enough. It has to be. What do you want to do, or try, now?

breslau-girls-reading

My pictures the last few posts have been by Louise-Catherine Breslau, or Maria Luise Katharina Breslau, a Swiss-German painter born in Munich who worked in Paris, because I love her work. The technical draftsmanship, and the psychological insight, appear to me as accomplished as far better known artists, yet the work seems mostly in pastels rather than oils, and I had not heard of her. I want to give the name she would prefer as a mark of respect to her, and do not even know that.

I am this person

It is not that I like being humiliated,
but that what I like humiliates me.

I am this person.
I am this person.
I have done what I have done.
I have believed what I believed
and do not now believe.
I believe what I believe.
I do what I do.
I am this person.
I want what I want.
I am who I am.

Humiliation and shame and denial and judgment
Such judgment! Cruel, harsh, unsparing judgment
which judges me for being unable to bear it.

I have done the best I can,
which I resent, which horrifies me
because it seems so little.
It is as it is.

I like myself.
I am kind, soft, gentle, peaceful
and that pleases me.
I have done all I can,
understood as best I could
admitted and accepted as much as I could,
protected myself as well as I could.

I am where I am, and wish I was not.
I am this person,
where this person is,
having everything this person has.

This is a direct answer to TS Eliot, East Coker III:

To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.

“The darkness shall be the light and the stillness the dancing” has deeply moved me.

And this “Keep Britain in the European Union” meme:

blame-a-foreigner

I commented, I have indeed totally failed at life. Some people say it is not entirely my fault. However, I voted remain, and am fairly liberal in my ideas about refugees and immigration. It is a gross generalisation to think of Leave voters as non-metropolitan losers- some of us voted remain. Because I have totally failed at life, I really dislike this meme, and possibly it is not the best way to win over Leave voters either.

Someone replied, I did chuckle at the meme but take your point, made with such humility, in the same spirit[…] someone who can take responsibility for her own life’s path is in some sense more successful than most. If anything, I fear that you may be taking the self-blame too far, and hope that you do so in part for rhetorical purposes…

Perhaps I have achieved what I most wanted to achieve.

Detransition III

Detransition is for losers. Detransition is second-rate.

Whether women are more feminine than men, separate from the influence of society and social constructs, I don’t know. Research shows we speak differently to babies depending on whether they wear blue or pink. Friends observe toddler boys swaggering round and sweet toddler girls wanting hugs; and they may just be reacting to adults’ subconscious approval or preference. Whatever, adults show a huge range of behaviour, including decisive women showing leadership and gentle men showing emotional intelligence, at least from the perspective of me, aged 50 in 2017.

It wasn’t my perspective in the 1980s. I remember seeing two wee boys in a bus station, one sturdy Scots, whose mother seemed quite happy with him bullying the other, who went for cuddles with his mother, and feeling a strong preference for the former. That was how boys should be, I thought.

Expressing female gave me the confidence to be myself, but now I want to use the whole range of my voice, not just above the break- and fear that makes me not a liberated person, who can be however she chooses, but a pretty rubbish trans woman who can’t even pass. Others often take you at your own estimation.

Transition is for losers. We don’t fit the social construct, so we go to all that effort. I don’t feel I have the ability or the right to be myself as a man, so I never reach the career my education fitted me for, never marry, and undergo the pain and expense of physical alteration. Be yourself, without the need to alter yourself. Self-confidence is the thing!

However if transition is for losers, detransition after physical alteration is worse. You decide transition was wrong, you were conned, all that effort was a waste- so you make the effort to revert. More effort, doubly a loser. That transition was wrong for you, even a betrayal of all gender non-conforming folk, a blind alley, a torture to conform to stereotypes- does not mean detransition is any improvement.

It’s second rate. It never made you happy. It never fitted you. But you are idiosyncratically you, from your nature and nurture, and no off the peg persona will fit you. Detransition is avoidance activity. Rather than becoming comfortable in your own skin, you enter another long-term change with a distant goal of a body and presentation the way you like; and this may involve painful, self-punishing procedures; and may even involve curtailing parts of you which don’t fit the new presentation.

I am feminine. I don’t fit, I feel ashamed, I try to fit, then it seems I might fit if I transition so I work very hard at that and still feel I don’t fit. All that effort is chasing shadows, chasing my tail.

What did I expect? There was another road you did not see. If I only do this, I will be happy, successful, congruent, integrated, life will be less of an effort. If I am not, well, there must be something I can do to reach that happy state. Happiness is somewhere to be had.

Don’t detransition. There is no point. Callahan gives all her energy to being gender non-conforming.

Or, we shall not cease from exploration, and each step takes us closer to congruence and understanding.

Just be you.

Other people are judging!
-No, they’re really not. Not nearly as harshly as I am, anyway.

That illusion. If only I do what I don’t see yet everything will be alright. It is possible, and therefore not doing it is proof of my inadequacy. The illusion is not true. Transition is second rate, but was the best I could do. This, right now, really is the best I could have achieved.

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Parakaleo

The Parakaleo ministry in the UK is a sad transvestite called Keith Tiller, who goes round telling people transvestism is wrong, a trans woman’s wife told me around when I transitioned. Parakaleo is Biblical Greek, meaning counsel, including to comfort, console, encourage, urge, appeal, exhort. In the US, Parakaleo is training for Christian counsellors at Stanford University, using the Bible as the main authority but the “Holy Spirit, not self-effort,” to move the person to speak.

I find the Stanford idea of telling people what is God’s will for them highly dangerous, but it pales beside the British fool’s crusade against trans folk. The crusade is ruthless and hateful: the first article I found on the blog is lifted from “Transgender Trend”, which is concerned about legislation which places transgender rights above the right to safety for girls and young women in public bathrooms and changing rooms. Anyone who alleges we should not use the loo because they claim we are a threat to girls has no sense of proportion, and their attacks are unreliable; and their foolishness led to large job-losses in North Carolina, as businesses deserted the bigot-led state.

Tiller claims his cross-dressing led to the end of two marriages and alienation from his two adult children. He bases his understanding on himself.

The crusade is not particularly powerful. It claims to be A Christian ministry seeking to uphold Biblical values to the transvestite, transsexual and transgendered person. Almost no-one uses that threefold TV TS TG division now, it is a failed attempt to fit a complex phenomenon into neat, simple categories. Keith begins with a lie:  The aim of Parakaleo Ministry is to … introduce people to the message of the Gospel and the healing love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Introduce? No, he mostly works with distressed people who have previously been Evangelical Christians. Message of the Gospel?

-Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?
-Well, whatever you do, never cross-dress.

He quotes Deuteronomy 22:5, and says It is clear from the passage that His intent that male and female are intended to be complimentary (sic). Whereas, consider the world God created, and see that masculinity and femininity overlap and intermingle. He wants things to be nice and simple, and his own desires distress him. Poor silly man.

We believe that males and females are created distinctly by God, intended to be complimentary, and united only in biblically ordered marriage. “We” is one man.

He then claims cross-dressing is addictive. Active participation, whether alone or in company, will result in an increased desire to pursue the activity. Actually, attempts to suppress it makes the person more obsessive, like Keith.

Finances remain tight – to the point of despair, which affects most of the areas of my life. Thank God. The despairing man will not turn many from Christ, despite enthusiastic support by wicked “pastors” like the one who referred my friend, and also threatened to reveal to the congregation the secret she had told him in confidence. His despair might indicate to someone less stupid and closed-minded than he that he is wrong about his gender, and wrong about God.

Keith is a silly man who has a silly website, on which he shares the most prejudiced and doctrinaire anti-trans articles he can find. Even when he was meeting people, he had little success: my friend thought it was God’s will she should not transition, until she met Keith and saw how ridiculous he was. She transitioned shortly after.

Keith’s worthless fantasies.

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