Transracialism

Can someone cross between races as we express other genders? Transracialism is not a good analogy for transgender, either for those seeking to support transracialism or oppose transgender.

When considering transition, one of the ways I argued myself out of it was to imagine what Afro-Caribbean friends would think if I blacked up. Blacking up for entertainment is seen as repulsive and racist, but transition is not blacking up: Drag queen expression is more like it. We do not perform a caricature to mock, we seek to live our lives normally. Now women perform imitating drag queens, and some say they are appropriating gay culture, and should not.

White people use black people’s art forms- white rappers, white jazz players, without pretending to be black. Could we not dress in brighter, softer fabrics without claiming to be women? No- playing the piano is only part of my being, my nature, and would be so even if I did it as a full time job. Improvising in words or music, the free flow rather than planning and executing the plan- or planning in advance a musical edifice, an epic poem, a symphony- is human, not of one race. No. I could not have softened and presented as a soft male. Others could, perhaps, I could not. I was too terrified of it. As a man I had to be Manly. Only as Clare could I free my soft self.

In one way, transracialism may be more justified. People who appear white may have black ancestry. In Black and British: a forgotten history David Olusoga met apparently white people who had black ancestors, who intermarried rather than being part of a black community. Those people should be allowed to celebrate their heritage. And they do not have black skin in a white-dominated world.

Why would you pretend to be black? When I googled “Rachel Dolezal” I found she had changed her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo. She taught African Studies, and tried to advance her career through the NAACP and the Spokane Police Ombudsman Commission. She told lies, claiming to be the victim of hate crimes which did not happen, using the title “Professor” without being entitled, copying JMW Turner’s paintings without acknowledgment. Her lies were designed to produce career advantage and social capital. She is a fraudster. It is therefore not clear that her claim to be black is based on her internal sense of her identity, rather than a feeling that a black person might have an advantage in the career path she chose.

As a teacher, she would be a role model for black students. She has no right to that. I do not claim to be a role-model for girls. That is one of the attacks on us, that we prescribe an ideal femininity, we enact the patriarchal oppression that this is the way to be a woman, but I do not imagine my way of being is ideal for anyone but myself, or deny the good of “manly” virtue in women, or assert that they should not exemplify any virtue seen as unfeminine. I speak for no-one. My identity as a woman is cultural not biological, and so I exemplify the freedom to alter cultural identity.

The NAACP has white officials, black people have white friends, and it is not clear that any Caucasian self-identifies as Black as a matter of identity rather than a way of fraudulently seeking advantage. The analogy of Nkechi Diallo breaks down, and the analogy of some transracialism for other motives is worthless, as such transracialism does not exist.

(c) Ferens Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Trans discrimination II

Why should discrimination against trans folk be unlawful? Because it stops us from thriving, and so stops us using our gifts to the benefit of all. People are weird. Our weirdness and difference is a source of strength. Accepting the idiosyncrasies of each frees everyone.

What can be weighed against that? A feather against a gold brick. Some people are transphobic. They find us repulsive. They want to say that, they want a nice, predictable world where everyone, but especially some groups such as fat people, queers, and immigrants are restricted, controlled into conformity by oppressive speech, and given a ghastly time.

Don’t compare your sin to my skin said Black evangelicals, who opposed gay liberation. There are so many overlapping oppressions. Trans folk are divided against ourselves, as if the bigots would tolerate a particular group of trans, if the others did not spoil it for us. Fighting ones own oppression is such a grievous task; and not everyone has the personality to sympathise with others, even when their problems are so similar. Do you think he can hide his nature? Jimmy McGovern’s hero priest in Broken asks the Afro-Caribbean man who despises his sister’s gay neighbour. We can, but it costs so much! None of us can escape who we are.

I demand that level of sympathy. All are broken, all are oppressed, all must work for the freedom of all; and when you realise that, you can be free.

It is not a free speech issue. You’re a man, really has little value as speech. Why would anyone want to be rude to me? To exercise power over me, to oppress me. A pointless, thoughtless cruelty for the sake of it. What do they gain? A fraudulent sense of their own correctness, understanding and control- but they don’t understand or control anything, not really.

The freedom that matters is the freedom to live your life as you choose. Freedom of speech has value where it allows people to work out new ways of living, but not when it restricts us. I harm no-one by expressing my femininity. I should not be deterred from it by the fear of not getting a job, or housing, or services. There is no value in being able to say to another, Ew! I disapprove of you!– unless that person is doing something which clearly harms someone else.

I wonder how this relates to Nietzsche’s conception of the strong and the weak. I feel, expressing myself female, particularly weak and vulnerable, yet feel that is closer to his Hero than to his resenting lesser men, who conform to a conventionality defined by others. It is not the same- I do what I must, what I may, not what I Will. I seek a world where none are weak, where no-one need to conform to anything but their true nature.

Being and doing

There is no “real you”. You are what you do. You may like to imagine what you would do in a particular situation, acting courageously, morally or with a particular ruthless self-interest, and just as you think of the clever retort too late to make it, you do not live up to your fantasies. The fantasy is a reassuring falsehood, not an underlying Reality which shows you have value. Your value is in your reality, not that falsehood. If you value the falsehood you will never match up to it, and never value yourself.

And- you have potential you deny and devalue. You need to accept it in order to discover it. Fortunately, you are what you do: shadow motivation, the strength of the parts you deny, will bring it to your attention, and the conflict you experience with that will end. The lies you were told and the suppression you suffered will melt away.

I can use any statement of fact or morality to beat myself up, and you are what you do is no exception: what do I do? Right now, nothing, so I am the coward equivocator who hides away and tells myself false stories in an attempt to console myself as I fritter away my life. Coward. Failure. Fool.

The answer is to see the truth in another way. You are what you do. All that courage and creativity. I fought till I broke, and I am still fighting though in a different way. I am still fighting in two ways:

the slave driver, for whom nothing is ever good enough, who will never accept me stopping to rest unless I fall over exhausted.

the creative explorer, seeking to understand.

And the thing which makes all their energy barely achieve my survival is my fear. My fear means that routine actions like going shopping can be terrifying.

 ♥♥♥

My existential terror consumed me.

I made a mistake!
I cannot rely on myself!

I know I cannot rely on the world.

Therefore I shall die!

I have inside myself a terrified child. Argument is useless for consolation: I explain it is a small mistake, and a small loss, but even if she recognises that it does not lessen her fear. How to get her to see that? Don’t be so completely stupid! It is completely unimportant! Shut up and stop whining!

This does not make her feel better. However, even when I attempt to explain kindly, she discerns my intent. It is clear to me this is unimportant, and necessary that she accept that.

She says, You are seeking to manage and control me! Don’t try to manage and control me! I don’t trust you!

Trying to manage her will not make her trust. I can’t make her do anything, by force, reason, or trickery.

Only Love might help. There is the fear. The fear is a faithful reaction. I allow the fear. It passes through me, and the sharp insistence it needed to be heard against my “reasonableness” lessens. After, there is tiredness. Ruefulness. I need to understand, and my “reasonableness” is not sufficient for that. The fear is hypervigilant because it was not heard, and I was hurt. My reasonableness, never accepting my fear, was wrong.

I seek balance.

 ♥♥♥

I tried taking Norethisterone, and it made my feelings more intense. I had a great high on Tuesday, and a horrific downer on Thursday after coming off it, and my terror on Saturday arose from it. Yet the fear is there, controlling me, all the time, and I must alleviate it, or live with it. “Feel the fear and do it anyway”- or something like that.

Cycling while trans

After a wonderful day, I got to the station at 12.15. It is lovely to cycle in a light summer dress, but not at night in the rain, so I put on my waterproof jacket. That’s quite hot, and I don’t want my wig rained on, so I put it in my handbag. What could go wrong?

I expect to take about forty minutes at night. It is lovely with the roads so quiet, even against the wind, even after such a storm that there is a lot of standing water on the road. I am almost home when there is a barrier across the road, with a police car behind it, and a diversion sign. Oh dear. That’s a long way round, I think. I asked the police officer, politely, if I could get through as it was such a long way. No: the storm has brought down power cables, which are lying right across the road. They have called for someone to come and remove them, but don’t know when they will come. I could wait if I want, but it could be half an hour. I go down the side road.

When I get to the dual carriageway I see there is no ramp down leading westward. I had forgotten. As it is quiet, I go down the footpath beside the exit ramp. However when I get to the bottom I see there is a barrier across this road too, again with a man in a van to prevent anyone sneaking through.

-Do you mind if I cycle through? It’s a long way round, I am not sure of the way through Zhuzhkov and the road through Marsby is blocked.
-Yeah, go on, mate, he says, just mind out when the lorries are reversing, yeah?
-I’m female, I say, but he makes no response to that.

At one point I am cycling over hot tarmac, enjoying its rich aroma. At another I pull into the side to let a lorry reverse past. Again it is lovely in the quiet, with almost no traffic going the other way. The wind is against me but not too much. There is little drizzle. I slog up the hill from the roundabout and get home in about twice the time I thought it would take.

The more people there are about, the more likely it is that someone will read me and object to me, but most people don’t mind. This bloke, seeing my male pattern baldness and hearing my voice, nevertheless behaved reasonably. I have been thinking about pride. What did I do- how would I conceptualise it? I begged to be allowed through– no, I asked, with my tone of voice indicating the only reasonable course would be allowing me through. Or, pride in appearance- practicality is more important. The dress was comfortable, in the day-time. I met with setbacks and dealt with them.

Is a cis woman really a woman?

Not if she does not want to be- though that takes strength…

One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman. I have not studied Simone de Beauvoir, but understand that refers to Patriarchal repression. She, who fought for academic achievements almost entirely reserved for men, saw the repression at its most powerful. Judith Butler interprets that quote: If being a woman is one cultural interpretation of being female, and if that interpretation is in no way necessitated by being female, then it appears that the female body is the arbitrary locus of the gender ‘woman’, and there is no reason to preclude the possibility of that body becoming the locus of other constructions of gender. At its limit, then, the sex-gender distinction implies a radical heteronomy of natural bodies and constructed genders with the consequence that ‘being’ female and ‘being’ a woman are two very different sorts of being.

This is a way to freedom, to imagine that having a particular appearance should not constrain either the gifts you are expected to have, or the way you develop and embody them. If the word “woman” oppresses those it does not fit, cast it off. You might later reclaim it, defining it not by “feminine” qualities but by a common experience of oppression. I share that oppression: I have been sexually assaulted as if my body belongs to the man, to use as he pleases. As Poppy Noor says, when talking of sexual assault men ask, cautiously and very sympathetically, whether this has happened to me… women swap stories and counter-tactics. Woman, then, is a social group suffering particular oppression, sharing an interest in fighting it.

Butler found freedom by escaping the woman gender. If ‘existing’ one’s gender means that one is tacitly accepting or reworking cultural norms governing the interpretation of one’s body, then gender can also be a place in which the binary system restricting gender is itself subverted. Through new formulations of gender, new ways of amalgamating and subverting the oppositions of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, the established ways of polarizing genders becomes increasingly confused, and binary opposition comes to oppose itself. Her solution is not to become a woman.

She uses genetics to further this aim. And what is “sex” anyway? Is it natural, anatomical, chromosomal, or hormonal, and how is a feminist critic to assess the scientific discourses which purport to establish such “facts” for us? … If the immutable character of sex is contested, perhaps this construct called “sex” is as culturally constructed as gender; indeed, perhaps it was always already gender, with the consequence that the distinction between sex and gender turns out to be no distinction at all. For her, the concept of the gender binary affects how scientists without the insights afforded by feminist philosophy classify intersex people, and how they hypothesise about sex differences.

There is no specifically female or feminine virtue. We make Rudyard Kipling inclusive- What is more, you’ll be a person, my child. We extend his promise to those designated “women”: Yours is the World, and everything that’s in it. Carl Rogers wrote “On Becoming a Person”- everyone is affected by nature, nurture and environment, throughout life.

Extracts from Judith Butler.

Arguably, as a trans woman, my Judith Butler quotes do me no good. By transitioning I am asserting that my feminine virtues fit a female body and female presentation, that there is a gender binary. However, I am rejecting the role of oppressor, and begging to be granted a space with the oppressed- I am an asylum seeker, not a colonist- and rejecting the idea that being “born a man” specifies qualities I have, or ought to have. Mine is the way to radical freedom- if I may “become a woman” anyone who does not wish to need not.

Butler herself seeks to listen to trans and intersex communities and include us. If ‘queer’ means that we are generally people whose gender and sexuality is ‘unfixed’ then what room is there in a queer movement for those who understand themselves as requiring – and wanting – a clear gender category within a binary frame? …It is a fundamental issue of how to establish and insist upon those forms of address that make life liveable. At issue as well is a question of autonomy, conceptualized not through individualism, but as an emergent social phenomenon: how do I name myself, how can I establish my status within the law or within medical institutions, and to what extent will my desire to live as a particular gender or within an established gender category be honoured by those who claim to ally with me? For me, that my gender does not fit my birth sex is sufficient to make me “queer”- oppressed, and resisting oppression; that should be enough to make me an ally of all others resisting it. Anyone who attacks me as an oppressor or seeks to defend other oppressed people from me is doing the oppressor’s work. Don’t fight me, I am not the problem.

To put it another way, here is JFK, lightly made inclusive: Freedom is indivisible, and when one person is enslaved, all are not free. You cannot be free unless I am.

Pride II

The pride and love I have for my country make me cringe in disgust when I hear the security announcements at the sleepy local station. Please report anything suspicious to a police officer or a member of the station staff. Why would a police officer be here? What like? Have they left a bag unattended? Maybe they put it down for a moment. Are they wearing a big coat to hide something? Maybe they have a thyroid problem. Are they avoiding staff and police?

Citizens! Study those around you with suspicion. Your prompt action could protect the Country we Love from Terrorists! Or, just turn it into Hell on Earth. See it. Say it. Sorted. The Dunning-Kruger effect in action- a police idea of a catchy slogan. Look, it alliterates!

Good to see them ticking the equality boxes. Terrorists can be female too! Or, the police informant with that large bag- is there a bomb in it? is not scoping her out to see if she is trans, but wondering if he can escape by drawing attention to an innocent passenger.

When I get to Tate Modern, there is a queue for the bag check. How dare they, really, how dare they poke and prod through my handbag? Why every single bag, making people wait? “Open the bag please” he says. Oh, fuck off. I do so with ill grace, and take my waterproof out on command. Then I go in to the gallery.

Here I can get into the holiday mood, relaxed, open, happy, in an instant, usually, but the guards and searching just ruin it. If I wanted to bomb an art gallery, where better than to run in and explode just where it is crowded, at that queue?

To the exhibition Art in the Age of Black Power. I much prefer this to “Queer British Art”- we queers were prosecuted and vilified, and most of that was suffering soft people oppressed by the authoritarian control freaks. Here I see Malcolm X portrayed in bright colour, a Prince, Black, Bad and Beautiful, a hero. Black people still get shot after being stopped for no discernible reason by traffic police- well, none of the gun death in the US is explicable to a European, all of it is abhorrent, but the racial prejudice in these killings is an additional dimension of vileness; and here people whose lives are under threat are Proud, standing tall and free. It is beautiful.

Sitting in front of that portrait I realise I am high on art and progesterone. It is a good experiment. My feelings are heightened, more immediate and more intense. And, usually when I am this out of my skull I am at home or with friends. I have to be aware of the possibilities of overreacting. That said, it’s a good feeling.

To the British Museum. Here, visitors are shunted round barriers so we slalom from the front gate to the side of the courtyard, even though there is no queue. Four security guards get us through, standing on a pedestal behind a desk so I must offer up my handbag.

It is lovely to see H. We see the Hokusai, wander off for dinner somewhere, and passing the Leicester Square ticket booth get tickets for An American in Paris, which is wonderful. By the third time I am resentful of having my bag prodded, but it is now a dull ache rather than anger. I am glad this is only occasional for me at the moment. It would take some of the joy out of life. I would hate to get completely accustomed to it, though.

Is a trans woman really a woman?

Yes. But what can we say if told that we have testicles, so our sex is male, so we are men? It’s scientific, innit?

The word “man” has always had a different meaning from adult human with testicles. Rudyard Kipling: if you can show unswerving integrity, moral courage, and gentle acceptance of others’ inadequacies; if you never complain or show weakness, and

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

You’ll be a Man, which may or may not be different from a “man”.

Well I tried my damnedest, and I couldn’t. Force anything that hard and it breaks.

Someone quoted George Orwell: Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. Ah, they is a martyr for Truth, rather than a tedious, pedantic, unmannerly oaf, calling me a “man”. Actually, that quote supports me rather than them. They seeks to simplify, we multiply words to seek to express nuance- gender queer, gender fluid, non-binary, trans woman. They wants to appear so Clear, Definite and Right, and is angry and desperate.

Trying to answer with science- “I have a woman’s brain, look at this study of white matter”– is a good start. That argument sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t. Scientific analysis shows many variations on the genitals, in intersex conditions, and in the genes of those who appear to be cis. However, you are on the “man” side if you have or had working testicles and penis, and I share the feminist objection to asserting that innate gendered differences in brains cause men as a group to behave differently from all women. There is too great a range of behaviours in both genders for it to be so rigid. I feel the words “man” and “woman” have a use.

“Manliness”, “manhood” and “man” define an ideal, which is enforced in the culture. We don’t fit it. The answer is, change the culture, but that can’t be done quickly. Meanwhile, some people transition. We have been doing it for thousands of years, and the threat of death has not stopped us. I could not have accepted my feminine self without transition. As things stand, presenting male is just too difficult for me.

Then, this powerless group becomes a political football. EU human rights law has led to the Gender Recognition Act in Britain. The law says I am female. It makes my life easier. It is generally a working compromise. I dress female, use a female name, make some effort to lighten my voice, and mostly get by. Vulnerable people, for whom this is the most important thing in our lives mostly get tolerated. It takes all sorts to make a world. Me identifying as female is weird for some people, but then some people identify as Scottish first, or British, or Glaswegian, or European, and the relative importance differs for each person- and some of us get very steamed up about that. Anything human is rarely cut and dried. It is continually changing.

Some of the objection is transphobic. Ew. Men in women’s clothes! I want to be myself. I might look a bit odd. Greater acceptance of diversity benefits everyone, freeing us to benefit from each others’ gifts unrestricted by the strain of trying to appear normal. Everyone becomes aware of more possibilities, some of which they might try out. Everyone feels less need to conform, so as none of us fits stereotypes completely we are all more free.

It is possible that acceptance of a trans woman as a woman in some exceptional situations may harm other vulnerable people. That is certainly not true in every case, and the risk of someone being upset at seeing a trans woman in some random public loo is not a good reason for prohibiting all trans women from women’s loos. There might be particular circumstances where a trans woman should not use women’s space. I am open to persuasion. We should behave considerately in women’s space, but then, everyone should behave considerately in every public space.

That particular individual is incorrigible. Consider more of their drivellings: if we erase the notion of biological sex from the language, it would be impossible to walk into a wrong bathroom or discriminate against the opposite sex. But then we will live in the 1984 dystopia. What a martyr they is! I don’t want to erase the notion of biological sex, just permit the odd discrepancy, because human culture is complex, and changing it difficult, requiring bodges. Casting the issue in such apocalypic terms, they are surely justified in causing me such small discomfort as to instruct me what toilet to use. It is not an argument. There will be no meeting of minds. It is a power struggle.

Continued: Is a cis woman really a woman?

Fermi’s Paradox

Where are all the alien species? Why can’t we detect them?

If there are space-faring civilisations, they have to be social. Solitary animals, passing on skills to their offspring, might not even learn to make flint axes, leave alone smelt iron. Ironwork requires specialisation. Even reaching the moon involved more than 300,000 people. Rocket science is not particularly complicated, unlike brain surgery; rocket engineering is extremely complex.

They also have to be altruistic. We are destroying the environment because enough people care more about their own short term gains. We may destroy our species, or even our biosphere, before we have been transmitting radio waves for two hundred years. From the start of life to the end of intelligence takes perhaps 3.8bn years, and two hundred is a tiny part of that. Alternatively, we are increasingly transmitting information by cable rather than broadcast, so we may stop emitting radio waves because of improving technology.

This is not certainty. The Singularity, in transhumanism, is the moment when intelligent machines start to program themselves, and their intelligence starts to increase exponentially. Possibly before the biosphere is destroyed, such machines will have been created, operating automated plant to reproduce. With unfettered neoliberalism, they could inherit paranoid selfishness from their creators, and seek to destroy any other civilisation which they would perceive as a threat.

However, I hope that the spacefaring civilisation would see the galaxy as a place of abundance rather than scarce resources needing conquest to avoid competition. We would certainly not be slaves in mines, as any civilisation which could travel through space could mine with automation more efficiently.

I hope that we have two things they might want to preserve. We have our culture. If we were contacted by a more advanced civilisation, our culture might become a pale imitation of theirs. They want us to develop without contamination, to benefit from our unique way of seeing the universe, and relating to one another. We have our genetic diversity. Considering that bacteria are as different from archaea as eukaryotes are, possibly there are unique genetic solutions on Earth, never seen elsewhere.

Though as humans are destroying the biosphere’s genetic diversity, they might want to conquer us in order to preserve it.

Intelligent life may not be common. If it evolves in aquatic species, it will not lead to technology, leave alone space travel. Life here may need the Moon, which keeps our axial tilt stable: Mars’ axial tilt varies from 0° to 60°, which could cause climate change too rapid for species to adapt, preventing complex evolution. Life may need Jupiter, whose gravity captures rocks like the Chicxulub impactor, or we would have had more mass extinctions from such impacts.

They have not come yet.

And now what shall become of us without aliens?
These people were in sooth some sort of settlement

Emotional thinking V

Emotional thinking is rational thinking.

Before University, I went for a taster weekend at St Andrews. We stayed in the halls, had a tour and saw the tiny town with its three parallel streets; and had a few sample lectures and a dance. How could anyone ‘live by logic’? asked a philosophy don about Star Trek. Who would do anything without desire? Logic can work things out, emotion motivates. But emotion also creates rational decisions, of what is in my interests or what I find bearable. Vulcan main characters in the Star Trek universe show loyalty and drive. Their subsuming emotion means doing their duty when they would feel fear or disgust, and judging others impartially. They have no sense of humour, but one of honour and right conduct. Minor characters also show a sense of their own importance and the respect due to them, sometimes overblown, and even competitiveness.

It is hard to see how emotion might be excluded from any opinion or decision. We cannot be “rational”, making appropriate decisions, if we do not use emotion. Vulcans would not be impulsive, they would defer gratification or eschew lower animal tastes, they would be imperturbable, but the emotion is underneath, influencing their actions.

I wonder about those impulsive decisions. Fear and desire war in me until desire overcomes, and I do the foolish, ridiculous thing- which is liberation for me, even authenticity. Decisions about what risks to take are emotional. Even “logical” tools like enumerating pros and cons of alternatives are a way of drawing out the emotional reaction- for which are more important? Illusion, asserting that something is not as it really is, is a way of suppressing true feeling.

Desiccated? But desiccated thinking uses old, diseased emotion, old resentments and hatreds, to find revenge where there is no delight left in it, and even completed revenge would leave the hatred unappeased.

Rational thinking is emotional thinking, using healthy emotion to find what will best help the actor flourish and be their true self. Logical thinking, finding what is clearly right, is emotional. Even rationalisation is emotional, believing what I need to believe so as best to nourish my relationships.

Only through emotion can I find who I truly am, and only through emotional decision making can I realise my true self, and flourish.

I love Theresa May’s necklace of huge chain links, like shiny carabiners.

It looks like a slave thing, she said. I am not sure. Possibly her disapproval was not diminished when I said I thought it more strong than submissive- to appeal to the virago rather than the submissive woman. That’s my sexuality you are discounting, I think. There is gay pride, I need an analogous but distinct pride. The patriarchal ideal of sexuality is flaunted all the time. It is a clear part of the Foreign Secretary’s public persona.

The pride stirs in my heart even as worry at disapproval and wanting agreement and reconciliation- both very me- arise too. With such feelings, how hard for me to attain authenticity! So many competing feelings to permit, to nurture to maturity, to reconcile! How beautiful I will be, when I do!

Recovery from burnout

Only achievers burn out.

I got that lying doctor sacked. Then I am on the balance of probabilities sure that the second one was lying, was certain of it at the time, and think any disinterested party would agree. The Benefits office and their medical services were not disinterested, wanting to assert that they did nothing wrong ever.

I went into the tribunal and accused the examining doctor of lying. The doctor on the tribunal laid into me. How dare I impugn the integrity of a professional man? So I went back to the waiting room, burst into tears, and soon after I stopped doing benefits tribunals. I took a demotion and went round people’s houses filling in attendance allowance claims.

I found that I would not give up until I am dangling on the end of a rope, and at the time I was proud of it. Rightly proud, that ability to push myself that hard is strong. Yet there is a flaw in it. It might be better to recognise that the work was tiring, and stop before I fell. I had done a reasonable amount of work. And having got the first doctor sacked, with set-back after set-back over months, I might have been better to realise that it was above my paygrade, not my job, and possibly too difficult.

I had to burn out before I gave up. I had to be reduced to tears and unable to go on before I would stop.

Then there was that dinghy sailing course on Cumbrae in my teens. There was a swell, we had to paddle the boat to the jetty, and I was paddling really hard. I feel the man paddling on the other side of the boat sensed I was frightened, and am still peeved, because I was not frightened of the boat capsizing but of not paddling as fast as he was. Possibly he was merely surprised at how hard I was paddling.

So how can I recover from this?

You are recovering, she says. You recover by exercising your intellect. You have ambitions. You don’t feel strong enough to fight or confront, you don’t feel resilient, but will become so. Have faith! You have this capacity for energy and enthusiasm, though not all the time. It shows in your face. Burnout only happens to achievers.

I did not know when to stop. Burnout was the only way I could protect myself. Just as when I went home from work to kill myself and then realised I did not want to die, just to get out of there immediately. If only I could take avoiding action before I got to that stage. I am worth preserving.

I was weeping on the phone with the Samaritans. I can be the Rational Man, suppressing feeling but Angry, and then if I accept the weeping and give myself to it I can be the Dancer.

-A petal or a razor blade, she says.
-There might be something in the middle.

-Why is fighting masculine? Is that indoctrination, that boys are strong, girls weak?

Something in the middle- a flower, not just a petal which falls to the ground.
-How about a whole garden?
A bush, I say, putting forth flowers, seeds and thorns.

I am away for the weekend soon, with HAI, then for a week with Quakers. All lovely, open people.

-I am glad part of you takes time to have fun.

There might be something in the middle. Either I am worthless or the centre of the universe. Either I work as hard as fighting for survival or I hide away and do nothing. I am fighting for survival, because there is the parental judgment, now internalised, if I do not work hard enough I am No Good, and that is a threat to my existence. And you can’t fight for survival all the time, especially if it is not real. I gave up because I could not work that hard all the time any more. These responses are unconscious, I just do it without consciously choosing, and I wonder how much good analysing them does.