Fatima

I hate Fatima. 

I was only half joking when I said I might have a religious experience and go all pious at Fatima. The place is designed to evoke that, most people are up for that, and I am suggestible. I had the opposite reaction. 

We had lunch in a caff, then approached from the South. There is a great deal of Catholic tat. 

Here is the new church, consecrated in 2007. 

I loathe it with a passion. It enraged me and I  needed to express that, forcefully. It is a windowless bunker. It is bearable inside, with all the light controlled:

It feels fascist to me. It is designed to make the individual worshipper feel insignificant. Jesus called me his sister, and every one of the hairs on my head is numbered, but here I am just one of the huge crowd. They have to cater for thousands of pilgrims but there must be better ways of doing it. 

We walked out the North side, and saw the other church, from 1957. Those things look like insect legs, or pincers. 

Christ is a gaunt insect, too. 

The other church is intimidating too, though a little less so. All those steps are unnecessary. Penitents go towards it on their knees: there are signs requesting we do not photograph them. 

Mass proceeds outside as we walk in. The stained glass is pretty. But all the art is the Stations of the Cross- an appearance of the Virgin should be a festival: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. 

I cross myself from the holy water stoup. The shock of cold water enlivens my senses to the present moment, and accepting the priest’s gift makes me more connected to the place.

Here is the tomb of a Little Shepherd, where people pray, or take photographs. I did both. Some leave gifts.  

Here is the totalitarian I blame for its totalitarian feel, especially shocking as it goes on about the fall of Communism.

The children photographed by him love him. 

The collonade is reminiscent of St. Peter’s plaza. 

Belem

To the cultural quarter. TristĂŁo e Isolda is next week, alas. We miss it. The overcast sky is not ideal for photos, but the Centro Cultural is beautiful, clad in rose stone. I walk a wide stone passageway up to the Berardo Collection, alone in the off-season, and it feels empowering and liberating, not at all like the stark concrete ravine west of the National Theatre in London.

The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos is worth photographing in any light, even a phone snap which I cannot edit.

All the cloisters are intricately carved.

People are doing selfies, which I find difficult:

The refectory has stories in pictures, which I do not like.

The church from the gallery.

It is a tourist hubbub even now, so I say I want to pray, and go into a quieter side chapel. A woman presses her forehead to an altar below a statue of the Virgin.

There are so many artists in the Berardo overview of the twentieth century! I will not comment as I fear sounding Pooterish. Here is the church from the water garden.

Parliament

 To Parliament, for the mass lobby for EU citizens. Most of us there were not British, and spoke up for their own rights. I went to communicate my desire for co-operation in Europe, and treating people decently. After, there was a demonstration against Mr Trump, to coincide with the Debate on our demand to rescind the State visit invitation. 

Parliament is impressive. 

I claim Cromwell for Remainers. He fought for the people against the Moneyed Elites. 

More on this later. I don’t like writing on my phone. 

Sintra

I am in Portugal with friends. Though it has nothing to distinguish it but a stone cross and a lighthouse, tourist coaches come here, the most western point on mainland Europe. 

They get photographed with the cross. 

I would rather photograph the drama of the coastline.

You can get down to the beach, a little further north. 

Truth and narrative

“True story” is an oxymoron.

I phoned the Tax Credits helpline for advisers, and got nowhere. “You’re being very condensating,” said the man I was referred to, and after half an hour my brain was so cabbaged that I knew he meant something else, but did not know the word for it. Thank you, you don’t need to say it now, I worked it out for myself later.

In the nineties I knew a man, still the most boring man I have ever met. I can’t remember his name, but it ended in an Ă­ sound, a contemptuous diminutive, Nicky or Ricky or Donny or something- anyway, he got very drunk on whisky, and ever thereafter could not drink it. He found a sip nauseating. Dismissively contemptuous, Neil said he probably had had no head for it anyway, he got drunk on a couple of glasses.

I associated those stories. “Condensating” was the moment I got nowhere with the benefits authorities, that I could not take any more. I cannot bear it. I could not bear another such conversation, it nauseates me.

Another myth. Margaret saw me as Clare for the first time, and said, “It’s as if you are acting when you’re Stephen, just you when you’re Clare”. Aha, I am a woman really, I am right to transition. The story becomes my conclusive evidence that I am right, the judgment of another person which I cling to, and take out for reassurance from time to time. It is my self-image: I know who I am, and “you’re just you when you’re Clare” is part of it.

Then about a year ago, I took off my wig and put on my cycle helmet, appearing androgynous, but continued talking, and H said “You have this lovely male energy”. Her beliefs, her politics, or her individual judgment of me need have no bearing on me, but have had. I could if I wanted call that comment on Wednesday 2 March 2016 the decisive moment

where my lies came apart
where my truth was undermined

Several times I have picked on particular dates where all changed, changed utterly for me. H has changed my view of the world. I am not sure if I have ever been entirely sure that I am a woman- I joked “I don’t know, and neither does my psychiatrist”, and said “I’m both and neither and in between”. Her word “lovely” just makes the blade sharper.

Either it is liberating- yes, I am a man, I need no longer assert a falsehood that I am a woman- or terrifying and destructuring, and I try to piece together the shards of my framework, world map, understanding which lets me navigate the world. “I am a man, but transition was the best I could do,” I say. “Bad things happen to good people.”

Or I create a new narrative. “I am a trans woman”. I have the right to be this way.

Brexit and Trump, and possibly this year Fillon and AfD, change my comforting narrative, one which is probably yours too. It is a debased Whig version of history: just as the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 was a decisive moment of progress, which changed the way of doing politics in England from battles to individual murders, a clear improvement, so Obergefell v Hodges was a step into the light, which could not be reversed. A Tory version of history, that there are random events with no broader significance, is reasserted, so that Trump’s Muslim ban is not a pathetic attempt by the failing forces of reaction, but a random event of quite as much significance as Obergefell.

We need to change our stories. Since 2016, our stories have not been the Truth, but a comforting lie to help us get through the day without collapsing on the floor, screaming. The words “male energy” are a stake through their heart, as is the Muslim ban. “Do your duty, Republicans,” says the New York Times. “Prosecute him!” Trump meanwhile promises a new Muslim ban which will be less vulnerable to judicial scrutiny.

I have been reading of stories. Here’s Rachel Cusk in the NYT:

In psychoanalysis, events are reconstructed in the knowledge of their outcome: The therapeutic properties of narrative lie in its capacity to ascribe meaning to sufferings that at the time seemed to have no purpose. The liberal elite are in shock; they fall upon the notion of the victors’ regret as a palliative for their mental distress, but because the referendum result is irreversible, this narrative must adopt the form of tragedy.

And, writing of her mother

She didn’t care what she said, or rather, she exacted from words the licentious pleasures of misuse; in so doing, she took my weapon and broke it before my eyes. She made fun of me for the words I used, and I couldn’t respond by threatening her with death. I couldn’t say “I could kill you” because it wasn’t true, and in language I had staked everything on telling the truth. I have had that experience debating Creationists: I try to persuade, using truth, they simply assert their Beliefs. “It cannot be so, because of Genesis.” It was bad enough debating a blogger on the other side of the world- how much more terrifying, to face your own mother’s assertions?

Thus saith the LORD.

There is no answer to that. Tim built an impenetrable wall of language to shield him from- the truth? Or just, my understanding of the World? The defeated liberal is abashed, so less confidently assertive.

Anna Blundy, in a completely different essay- a short column not a hefty work like Rachel Cusk’s- also addressed making sense of truth with words. Language distances us from our real thoughts and feelings in an almost defensive way (the fact that it makes us feel better to have named something, perhaps is even indicative of that)… we’re trying to repackage something into a digestible form that will make the symptom of the sufferer more bearable.

Surely it is better to face the unvarnished truth? This essay says that news broadcasts and advertising alike end up telling stories… the mastery of danger, the satisfaction of desires and the ultimate restoration of morality. But here, an effort is made to lead people to believe that the story accurately depicts people and events. As a result, all end up profoundly falsifying what they portray, once again mixing faithful and manipulated images, and fact and fiction in seamless ways so that it can be hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. The attack is mitigated by the fact that the essay itself has a similarly comforting structure, where the restoration of morality is us all becoming more sceptical about the media.

It is not at all reassuring to say that I can’t bear another phone conversation with the benefits authorities. I could say, well I had hundreds before, many of them successful, or simply that I should eschew predictions of the future, which may just be paranoia, and concentrate on the actual task. I know what the task involves. Fear of what bad things will happen and how I will respond when I fail just get in the way.

This is my two thousandth post, on a blog about me, truth, trans, the world, and everything that interests me. I do it to be read, and achieve less of that than I would like. Joanna wrote a short post recommending one of mine, and I am grateful for the recommendation, because my post got more than three times the views from it, than 75% of my posts get from all sources. This is my least worthwhile goal, to see that I have had more views. Writing of Donald Trump stretches my writing, but gets fewer views, as most of my readers come from a Trans site, so I restrict my choice of subjects to get more views. Posting daily gets more views. I get a tiny dopamine hit when I see my page-view numbers have increased- nearly 198,000 views in five and a half years.

I might be better to write longer essays. I could develop an ability to analyse an idea in greater depth. This is not that: I have quoted undigested screeds from three essays and some of my own thoughts on truth, rather than explained the essays, created a satisfying narrative argument in my own words, and polished it. Writing around 500 words a day is good practice, but I want to edit and structure something more satisfying than these short pieces. I have published just one 2000 word article. I love Rachel Cusk’s essay- how I would love to write something like that!

I blog to tease out my understanding, as well. It is psychoanalysis for me, repackaging reality into that digestible form. So I have written how transition or surgery was the best thing I could have done, and the worst, in separate pieces, and wonder how to unite them.

St Clare

Buy submarine

You know you want one.

Triton provide submarines for superyacht owners, researchers and explorers. Film-makers may also want to go down a kilometre under the sea. A Triton 3300 encountered a giant squid.

It is a beautiful thing, a transparent globe about two metres in diameter, with three comfy seats inside, on top of jet propulsion. It can go at three knots, and endure for a twelve hour trip, scrubbing CO2 as it goes. Listen to the ambient sounds of the ocean, particularly lovely among large mammals. It has six 20,000 lumen LEDs- the best car headlight is around 3000 lumens. Optional extras include remotely operated vehicles, so you can send a camera into a shipwreck, and a manipulator-arm to take samples, set equipment or hold onto a rocky outcrop for stability. Triton sells broadcast-quality camera systems, drills and saws. You are recommended to buy a tracking system to calculate your position relative to a surface vehicle. SONAR is available to detect and identify sea-floor objects- ground penetrating SONAR is available for archaeology.

triton-submarine

Research on trans

A combination of hormone therapy and surgery improves gender dysphoria and other areas of psychosocial functioning. So says WPATH, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. You would think they should know, and would back up their assertion with evidence; you would be right.

A study may consider patients through the treatment process, or assess patients after treatment. Because the researchers are making the assessment at all times, a prospective study is more reliable. A prospective study of 325 patients reported in 2005 that psychological function improved after therapy, as did body-satisfaction. Surgery alleviated gender dysphoria, and fewer than 2% expressed regret after therapy.

I went to the study abstract. It is even more positive: After treatment the group was no longer gender dysphoric. F-M and “homosexual” (ie, F-M attracted to women, M-F attracted to men) functioned better than non-homosexual and M-F. Two non-homosexual M-F people expressed regrets. Clinicians need to be alert for non-homosexual male-to-females with unfavourable psychological functioning and physical appearance, says the abstract, who may require more therapeutic guidance.

That is, people need support throughout the treatment process. It is not a mere medical matter of administering hormones and surgery, but psychotherapy. Perhaps psychotherapy without gatekeeping or assessment for hormones: a claim of gender dysphoria should be sufficient to get hormones.

Surgery has continually improved, and there has been a steady increase in satisfaction with its outcomes, especially after the Standards of Care were published. Johns Hopkins University medical school ceased to provide treatment after its study found no improvement after treatment; but that study was in 1979. Even in 1981, before the Standards of Care, in a retrospective study of 283 MtFs 71% reported improved social and emotional adjustment.

I wondered if the reference to “observational” studies meant that outcomes were discerned by the researchers, rather than reported by the subjects. That does not appear to be the case: an observational study is one where the researcher cannot randomise assigning the subjects to a control group or a treatment group. Patients would not participate in a study where they could be refused treatment, and researchers could not be unaware which patients had received treatment and which had not, so a randomised controlled trial is impossible as well as unethical. In a review of studies conducted between 1961 and 1991, involving over two thousand patients, 86% were assessed by researchers as stable or improved in “global functioning”. 14% were worse, but who could know how they would have progressed without treatment?

We live in society, where we do not fit. We transition whether we receive hormones and surgery or not, though many are encouraged to transition by medical support. The real control would be a society where diversity was welcomed as the gift it is.

Treatment is justified, and is improving. Doctors providing treatment act ethically. You can entrust yourself to their care.

gwen-john-the-convalescent

 

Humiliation

Humiliation can be joyous. It is the moment when my understanding of the world and myself meets reality, and reality wins. With new understanding of the world, I function better, and with new understanding of myself cognitive dissonance and all-pervading dissatisfaction are resolved.

Of course it can break a spirit. The humiliation of torture is designed to break spirits. Punishment including imprisonment was designed to break spirits and prevent resistance or non-compliance. Some authorities attempt to mitigate punishment with rehabilitation, as it is better to persuade a person to comply, or heal their hurt and anger so that they are motivated to comply, but spirits are still broken in the prison system. Or torture can fail, and invigorate resistance with a sense of burning injustice. Seeing others tortured, some are frightened and some are empowered.

The good humiliation frees you from oppressive lies. The lie is that a human being should be a particular way, enforced by false pride in being that way, and terrible fear in case my pretense to being that way is found out. I invest all my sense of self, self-respect and belief in my safety in protecting the lie, so am oppressed and distorted, miserable and ineffectual. In humiliation, the lie explodes. It stands revealed- not a framework and firm footing, but a cage. Then comes freedom. I can see myself and other people. I can see what needs to be done, what is good and beautiful and to be desired, and my own reality and worthiness.

I flee in terror from what would liberate me.

Pride is necessary for human functioning. Self-respect motivates us to take care of our appearance, to appreciate the good we deserve and to seek it. Without pride existence becomes mere struggle for survival. Yet it has to be pride in matters worthy of pride: in real things, not illusions, in beauty and community and togetherness not isolation.

I transitioned because I wanted to fit in. My sexual desires humiliated me, so I acted to cut them off. I lacked the courage and faith to face the humiliation, and pass through it into joy.

It is not too late. I want things which are meaningless and worthless, to hide away, to not stand out or be noticed, to find a set of rules for living and fit them and know I am a good person because I fit them; and I want one good thing, which is my own survival. If I stopped fighting for these illusions which I can never gain, and which would never satisfy, what might I want instead? I self-punish, harshly judging myself: could I turn that aptitude to cleansing myself of the ties that bind me?

gwen-john-nude-girl

Inspiration

Where, in the late 1970s, would you get the idea of cross-dressing from, anyway? Dick Emery, perhaps:

Or there was an orgy scene in I Claudius, where the bra of the fleeing coquette is seen to be stuffed.

Where did I get the idea of cross-dressing from? I just wanted to, so I did. Arousal, compulsion, shame followed almost immediately-  not in my memory of the first time I did it, but ever thereafter. I knew no-one must know I did this awful thing, but then people keep sexual matters private. The people I saw in women’s clothes were women.

Here’s Johan Zoffany, The Last Supper.

john-zoffany-the-last-supper-detail

Zoffany, like most artists, used real people as models for his Last Supper. St John, leaning on Jesus’ left shoulder, is WC Blackwell, police sergeant of Calcutta, a cross-dresser who would round up criminals while dressed as a woman. Very fetching she looks, too. At different times, there are different levels of acceptance, and sometimes we can be brazen. You hear about other people who do it: I read two articles in the Mensa magazine by Christine-Jane Wilson, and got in touch. Her magazine published my poem, but we never met. But we do it spontaneously, before we get the idea from others.

Rachel the Trans Philosopher wondered how she knows she is trans. She does not have direct knowledge that she is female, contrary to The Script, “I knew I was a girl from the age of five”. She infers she is trans from her desire to transition and her delight in proceeding with it. Either it’s circular: I have the desires, therefore I am trans, therefore the desires are right for me; or it is “I can do what I like”: I need no excuse to follow these desires. I judge them harmless.

I don’t think I would have transitioned without the example of other people.

I read of a man executed by drowning in the Nor’ Loch, where Princes St Gardens are now, for bestiality. It was done at 4am, because he told his trial that he got the idea from a previous execution. It has never appealed to me, but I condemn it less than others might because of my own inexplicable desires.

Explanations tend to be descriptions- I express female because I want to, with no justification for the desire, because it needs none; or rationalisations- I am in some way a woman, which sounds good until someone asks what that could mean. We may tell ourselves stories about it because they are the stories we have heard, or we make up our own, but we start cross-dressing spontaneously, because that is what we want to do.

Issues around gender

I am reading the World Professional Association for Transgender Health standards of care. There are overlapping issues around transgender.

First, there is the cultural concept of how a man should be, and the character of the person who does not fit that concept. Then, there is the enforcement on the person of the cultural concept, by family and peers. Then, there is the amount to which that person tries to hide difference, even from themselves, and the distress arising from the difference. Some people will not be bothered that others apparently object to their gender presentation, some will take it to heart. Transitioning is one solution to problems arising from these issues.

WPATH say Being Transsexual, Transgender, or Gender Nonconforming Is a Matter of Diversity, Not Pathology. Well, yes. Doctors might get involved because of the distress, or because the person wanted medical help with transition, but not to make the person conform to gendered expectations. We suffer stigma, so abuse and neglect from family and society, which can cause anxiety and depression.

WPATH say Treatment is available to assist people with such distress to explore their gender identity and find a gender role that is comfortable for them …What helps one person alleviate gender dysphoria might be very different from what helps another person. I feel treatment should also be available for the person who does not present with distress, because they have decided to transition. Aversion is an emotional response- “I find my genitals unpleasant”- but people might show dignity, and not wish to express that emotion as distress. However the diagnosis in DSM is gender dysphoria, or distress.

Find a role comfortable for the patient- transition is only one of several possibilities.

The standards of care are based on European and North American experience, and there is a wide diversity in cultural construction of gender around the world. Doctors elsewhere should apply the principles of the SOC being sensitive to the local culture and to patients’ needs. These principles include the following: Exhibit respect for patients with nonconforming gender identities (do not pathologize differences in gender identity or expression); provide care (or refer to knowledgeable colleagues) that affirms patients’ gender identities and reduces the distress of gender dysphoria, when present; become knowledgeable about the health care needs of transsexual, transgender, and gender nonconforming people, including the benefits and risks of treatment options for gender dysphoria; match the treatment approach to the specific needs of patients, particularly their goals for gender expression and need for relief from gender dysphoria; facilitate access to appropriate care; seek patients’ informed consent before providing treatment; offer continuity of care; and be prepared to support and advocate for patients within their families and communities (schools, workplaces, and other settings).

gwen-john-dorelia-in-a-black-dress