A liberal looks at authoritarians

Anyone might want structure in their lives, rules so that they know their place in society. It makes people feel secure. They don’t want freeloaders. I look at the Brexit voters who want to bring back hanging and feel incomprehending repulsion, but as authoritarians have put Trump in power and enthusiastically buy newspapers calling MPs voting against the government “Traitors”, I need to understand. I cannot just talk to my own kind.

I know they are blindly wrong. Abortion is a clear instance. No-one would wish for more abortions, but the “pro-life” side wants to prevent them only by rules affecting abortion clinics and pregnant women. These only prevent legal abortions, we say, the rate of abortion is high where abortions are illegal. Legality only makes abortions safer for the woman. I wonder if the disapproval of sex and relationships education and contraception comes from a dislike of the thought of people taking pleasure in sex without risks. I know that using a woman as an incubator against her will is abominable, and that women in abusive relationships may not have control of their own reproduction except by abortion. I wonder at the lack of empathy of anyone who would not let a woman carrying an abnormal foetus, such as one without a brain, have it removed. I am aware of “pro-life” women who have abortions, and the intellectual gymnastics they indulge to argue the rules they senselessly would impose on others should not apply to them.

Equal marriage: people are different, with different gifts, desires and values. Most human variation is completely harmless, even beneficial. Feminine men make excellent pastors and carers. I can understand the need for rules to benefit society, but not the desire for rules for the sake of them. If you make all conform, you break people.

Most horrible is the majority of Leave voters’ desire to bring back hanging. They want people killed! Whether as retribution or deterrence, if the state kills, the people are in a measure responsible. Again I would refer to consequences- the law of evidence was restricted in cases of capital murder, by judges queasy about killing, and juries might not want the responsibility- but I suppose if they thought about it the supporters of hanging might seek to counter these problems with more rules. Juries must do their duty.

These social issues matter in themselves, and because they drive “values voters” to vote for governments that impose austerity, reduce health care for those who cannot pay for it themselves, let infrastructure decay and dismantle welfare. They blame the poor for their poverty and call the accumulation of the rich a reasonable reward for hard work. We see people as good, deserving nurturing encouragement, they would encourage by fear of failure. They would make children’s learning about expressing themselves in speech and writing a matter of rules and technical jargon, rather than exploratory play; fitting in and conforming, not self-expression.

Authoritarians are emotional about rule-making. They can understand banning abortion, but not regulations against pollution, which they remove in the name of “freedom” and (illusory) jobs. They are pessimistic about common action for the common good, so oppose action on climate catastrophe and plastic pollution.

There must be a synthesis, rather than division, where one sees the other as fomenting anarchy leading to chaos, or as regimentation destroying freedom. Even Christians divide, emphasising Love or Wrath. Theories of spiritual growth or human maturity seeing reliance on rules giving way to a more mystic understanding of humanity, the value of the human heart, and the way we progress place the onus on liberals to guide authoritarians to a better way, but each side looks at the other in mostly incomprehending pity and revulsion, each feeling their side needs to rule for the benefit of the others as well as ourselves.

Change can increase fear and anger, which make people authoritarian, reaching for clear solutions, though those will fail. We drift further apart. It is for the liberals to bridge the gap.

The Oldie

The Oldie magazine is obsessed with trans people, and not in a good way. In the December issue there is an article claiming Trans activists are ruling the world, but not thinking that a good thing, and at least three other mentions of transgender. There are possibly more, but the magazine is too boring for me to bother looking for them. This next bit is so vile I put it in small print, so you can dodge it if hate triggers you.

“What is it about transgender?” I asked.
“They’re crazy,” he said.
This was before progressive norms prevented us even contemplating hate speech.
“How do you mean crazy?” I asked.
“Aggressive, violent, disturbed, disruptive, impossible to reason with,” he said. “Really crazy”.

This comes after the writer claims to be bisexual, perhaps to indicate he could not possibly be prejudiced. The tone of the writing is supposedly “light and humorous”.

It’s awful. He refers to “cutting off the most definitive evidence of manhood”, asks if a “transgendered woman” is “actually- or originally- a woman or a man?” and compares us to Otherkin. Well, no-one is weirder than me, but the author probably does that to make us look bad.

Frankly, the science is a bit beyond me. That’s the Oldie’s schtick, pretending not to understand anything after about 1980, or anything at all really. Elsewhere in the magazine Virginia Ironside, their agony aunt, says In other words, and to use a vile expression, chill out. I don’t think she realises “chill out” has been replaced by “chill”. Her objection is that it is a new phrase, not an old one.

I’m still stuck on the basics: bathroom rights, male rapists declaring themselves female to get transferred to women’s prisons, linebackers coming out as women to play professional football. He paints us as a ridiculous, disgusting threat. He is delighted TERFs oppose us: Reactionary schools of thought hope this is the progressive movement consuming itself. That the contradictions will swallow the whole thing.

What else? In a review of a film by Sally Potter, the writer says she gave us a sublime Orlando, starring Tilda Swinton as the transgenderiste (sic) Virginia Woolf heroine. Oh well. And in “How to spot a decent vicar this Christmas” there’s this:

Forward in Faith’s website states, “We are unable in conscience to accept the ordination of women as priests and bishops”. This view is increasingly absurd in an age of gender dysphoria. Martyn Percy, the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, says, “Will Forward in Faith be able to tell us at what point a person’s valid ordination either evaporates or crystallises in the process of gender transition?”

Michael Cole thinks the “obsession with equality and diversity is killing quality television”, because nothing damages TV more in his eyes than having people different from himself on it. The survey would be asking me about my gender, ‘gender identity’, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability. Note the scare quotes, as if gender identity is not a real category. He objects: The real purpose of collecting this information is to limit the creative freedom of people working in television… [and] control what appears on the screen and who is in it.

“Who is in the screen”? No, Michael, that is liquid crystals rotating polarised light, or in your case perhaps a stream of cathode rays, not tiny people.

Trans is something new fangled, one more way the world is going to hell in a handcart, for Oldie readers and writers to resent. They have not heard of Elagabalus. Trans is as old as Deuteronomy, but with their affected ignorance they would not know that. Oh for the good old days when trans people would not be seen, or heard, they say. Harry Mount, the editor, also writes for the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.

This is the year of transgender moral panic, where we are the subject of daily press articles abominating us. The transphobes are out in force, in what I hope is a desperate rearguard action to prevent our rights and recognition, their desperation being a sign they know they will fail; but I fear my country’s increasingly authoritarian turn.

I wrote that, then was so bored that I leafed through the rest of the magazine. For the fiftieth anniversary of Just a Minute, there is a lazy rehash of some of its jokes. Giles Brandreth began, ‘Nicholas, or as close friends know him, ‘Susan’, is the first transsexual to host a panel show in this country. Oh God, there’s more of it!

For relief, here is a writer not consumed with anger about every change in his world. The Romanian homeless guy prays alongside the person who is transitioning and next to the old Etonian ex-army officer. People go through all sorts of transitions- going to university, starting a family- but you know exactly what Giles Fraser means, and he expects all his audience to. Our language is becoming the norm.

Peter Tatchell

From Peter Tatchell’s address for the Transgender Day of Remembrance:

In the 1970s, feminists of the day like Germaine Greer, their battle cry was “biology is not destiny”. That biology should never dictate a woman’s place, aspirations or achievements in life. What a tragedy now for those same feminists to say that biology is destiny, they say that if you are born a man or a woman, that’s the way you are, forever. Now one of the great things of the trans movement is to challenge that orthodoxy, to recognise that gender and gender identity is about much more: it’s about psychology, and feelings.

It’s about mental state, you can’t simply reduce it to genitals, and that’s a new understanding which I’m really sad to see so many traditional feminists, and some of the new ones, don’t seem to understand. They’ve gone back on their liberating ideas of the 1970s and reverted to a biological determinism in the twenty-first century. That is really sad.

Even sadder is the hostile attitudes of some feminists towards trans people and those who are gender fluid, as shown by Sheila Jeffreys and Linda Bellos in York. I’m astounded: Linda Bellos, this great black lesbian activist pioneer, threatening violence against trans people. She said “if they come near me, I’ll sock ’em”, waving her fist. She was prepared to threaten violence to “defend women’s rights against trans women”. That is shocking, to have such an extreme, bigoted and negative attitude towards trans people. There is a faction of feminism now lobbying against the much needed changes in the Gender Recognition Act. In the name of defending women’s rights, they are prepared to trample trans rights. That is wrong. We should stand together in solidarity, recognising that all of us, whatever our experience of discrimination, marginalisation and violence, have a common interest to support each other, because divided we are weak, united we are strong.


He is right about the most important thing, and wrong that these feminists are saying “biology is destiny”. Rather, they are saying sexism hurts women, in which they include trans men but not trans women. That is true. In the world without patriarchy, sexism would cease, and that would benefit just about everyone. Tatchell is right that they are prepared to trample trans rights, and that we oppressed peoples should stand together in solidarity: trans people aware of the oppression of people with non-European heritage, gay people aware of the oppression of women, educated white women however aware of everyday sexism, misogyny and harassment also aware of the oppression of trans people. Almost everyone has some privilege: I have not yet mentioned disabled people.

Tatchell is right that gender is about emotions and psychology, and that trans people are oppressed. From whatever motive, no feminist should add to our oppression. There are better ways to protect women than to attack trans women.

He does not mention here that trans people subvert patriarchy by existing.

Peter Tatchell was accused of transphobia after signing this letter to the Observer. “No platforming” used to be a tactic used against self-proclaimed fascists… But today it is being used to prevent the expression of feminist arguments critical of… some demands made by trans activists. To me, provoking a crowd to hostility by mocking trans women is not OK, and Germaine Greer should know better; but preventing her from speaking about unrelated topics is counter-productive. The letter goes further, saying she should be able to oppose our demands. I don’t know what he thinks about that now, whether he has changed his views since 2015, but he opposes Linda Bellos’ threats of violence. He could be consistent, supporting criticism but not hostility. To me as a trans woman, the two can seem difficult to distinguish in practice.

Yet I am glad he was accepted as a speaker, and glad he said what he said. He seeks the unity of the oppressed, and so do I.

Catholic transphobia

Catholics are taught to hate and fear trans folk. US Catholic bishops have signed a letter seeing us not as individuals but as some nebulous threat: The movement today to enforce the false idea—that a man can be or become a woman or vice versa—is deeply troubling. It compels people to either go against reason—that is, to agree with something that is not true—or face ridicule, marginalization, and other forms of retaliation.

Most of us just want to be left alone. We shun recognition because of hatred like this letter preaches. The letter casts the transphobes as victims, of unnamed “retaliation”, which justifies them in dehumanising and oppressing us.

I never asked anyone to “agree with something that is not true”. Instead, I ask them to recognise my humanity, and my right to pursue my desires, as long as I harm no-one else. That means treating me with courtesy. Some may think me a man, but I ask them not to make that obvious every time we meet: so they should use my name and correct pronouns. Why should these old men appoint themselves judges of what is “true”? Rigid consistent notions of truth leave no room for diversity or complexity, for the love and life which bishops should nurture. Society is in flux. Rather than clinging to their old ideas of Truth they should be open to how the Holy Spirit moves in humanity.

For they are deeply conservative, and any radical feminist should avoid saying anything which might encourage them. We come together to join our voices- pompous, portentous rubbish showing fear and anger- on a more fundamental precept of our shared existence, namely, that human beings are male or female and that the socio-cultural reality of gender cannot be separated from one’s sex as male or female. Gender cannot be separated from sex. God has ordained, according to these old fools, that women must be feminine, men masculine, according to their definitions not any sane psychology of humanity.

They use positive words, then weasel words which eat away all the love. They only fool themselves that they are loving. A person’s discomfort with his or her sex, or the desire to be identified as the other sex, is a complicated reality that needs to be addressed with sensitivity and truth. Each person deserves to be heard and treated with respect; it is our responsibility to respond to their concerns with compassion, mercy and honesty. “Truth”; “Honesty”- no, their ridiculous insistance that children conform to their ideas of gender. So there can be no sensitivity, no comprehension of complicated reality, no respect, compassion or mercy.

Their wicked ideas of gender must be enforced rigorously on children, they say. Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can “change” their sex or, further, given hormones. Whip the sissy out of that boy! It’s the only “loving” way! Note the scaremongering of “given hormones”- children getting puberty blockers is incredibly rare. There is a stupid and arrogant insistence that they know more about medicine than doctors: we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of “first, do no harm”- as if the whole letter was not urging harm.

We desire the health and happiness of all men, women, and children. A lie, immediately contradicted. Therefore, we call for policies that uphold the truth of a person’s sexual identity as male or female, and the privacy and safety of all. No, not privacy and safety, but the enforcement of their idea of truth.

I hate their self-deluded claims to virtue. Desire health and happiness, forsooth, or “authentic support” of trans people to reject our God-given nature. It is a wonderful example of delusion, these ridiculous Catholics, joining with the tiny “Anglican Church of North America”, a splinter group claiming 134,000 members in the US and Canada but with an eejit styling himself “Archbishop and Primate”. Oh, here’s some fool calling himself “Melchizedek”, after the Eternal priest. He is Orthodox, and claims 90,000 members in the US. The “North American Lutheran Church” is another recent splinter group, claiming 141,000 members who cannot stay in communion with Lutherans in the US. There is a token Muslim who styles himself “imam” and has founded his own Islamic Society of the Washington Area. They are all pathetic and ridiculous, yet their malice is all the stronger for their claims to “Love”, and they have some influence on poor fools, who they would order to torture children in the name of “Truth”.

Lest we forget, they hate gay people too. They affirm our commitment to marriage as the union of one man and one woman and as the foundation of society. I fear for their victims; yet they are nervous and afraid. They would not bother with such bombastic drivel if they did not know that doctors and parents are accepting children as they really are, and trans people are treated with growing acceptance and respect.

Oh, google the original if you must.

Perfectionism as fantasy

Every time I sat down at the piano I wanted to write ‘Songbird’. Perfectionism does not work, for adults. The bright child can be perfect, sometimes: you can get 100% on that maths or grammar test, if you are intelligent, focused on it, and apply yourself. You get straight As on your report card, as if success is quantifiable and you have achieved it.

The focus is not yours. It has some value, as school success leads to good university courses, and a good degree can start on a good job, yet it is based on luck and birth, as comprehension tests reflect middle class values and what the middle classes speak of at home. (“Middle class” is another term which means different things in UK and US.) Many fail: my friend failed the 11+, then got a PhD. The reward is external. You will win praise for achieving others’ goals. You crave the praise, because it is a sign of acceptance you do not get otherwise. Some may find maths beautiful, but you learn it for pats on the head.

In work, perfectionism is possible for very few. It was the root of my procrastination. I would not do a task, because I imagined it perfect, achieving what I wanted to achieve, and then judged my actual performance as less, rather than seeing that what I could produce with the tools available was the best I could manage, and just doing it. So I lost my job.

Perfectionism is a fantasy, unrelated to what is possible. Rather than wanting a result linked to the actual work, I wanted to feel good about myself. Ashamed of who I am, I could only feel good about what I achieved, and when that seemed impossible I gave up. With a fantasy of an ideal self, focused on goals I was taught to value and consistent in the character I was taught was good, I could not accept the real, messy human being I was.

If you do something because you ought to, the parent who pats your head no longer exists, so you get nothing from it. What do you want? You, yourself, from your own desires and not others’. I do not clean my teeth because of the rules, it is just what everyone should do, but because it makes my mouth feel better. In listless depression, I might not do that, because it is so little improvement of such a bleak-seeming situation.

That musician who had great success stopped making music, even for herself. She was not good enough. Better to be the band that achieved fame, and then fell out of the charts but continued touring, in smaller and smaller venues. How much Love do you need from an audience? If it must always be more, you will fail. How much can you appreciate the beauty of the music simply for itself? I have not been playing the piano, out of perfectionism, an idea of something more than is possible. What is possible?

This human being pursues its desires where it sees possibilities. The desires and the perception are partly unconscious, and partly in conflict with conscious ideas. Having to make myself acceptable when I was never simply accepted, wanting that before any other want, made the burden of my tasks too great, so that I felt incapable, and gave up. That increased my shame.

Ideally I want An Answer at the end of this, but it is a blog post, a work in progress. I still face the question What do you want? In my depressed state, my answer is “Nothing that I feel I might achieve”.

Blessings at Christmas

A woman artist gives a different perspective on the Annunciation. Gabriel kneels to Mary as the Holy Spirit descends, as she bows to him in assent- ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’

Against the spiritual or even sentimental view of the Holy Family, here is a physical act with the human mother and child. Often in painting, the child turns towards the viewer with hand raised in blessing. Here he is a baby, with a baby’s wants and actions.

Biblical paintings were a mix of authenticity, contemporary references, and symbolism like the flower in Jesus’ right hand. The roses may symbolise Mary’s life, controlled by the imperative of the Saviour’s life journey. Or Love; or her role as the Bride of Christ. Your knowledge and tastes affect your response to the paintings.

A feminist

I love what Dr Jen Gunter writes, on abortion, empathy, privilege, feminism, and incidentally on trans people.

An advert on facebook led me to an article from last month’s NYT on vaginas. Male partners sometimes criticise healthy vaginas as too loose, or smelling wrong, or tasting wrong, as a way of controlling women and making us feel insecure. This is not OK. I decide how I want to look. Women may actually harm themselves trying to make their vaginas acceptable. As a gynaecologist, Jen Gunter hears a lot of women describing the men’s manipulation.

In the comments here, I see different lines on “Not all men”. It gets clearer to me how that is offensive. Indeed, not all men rape women, and perhaps some men have never pushed women’s boundaries or wronged them in any way, but when a woman complains of shitty male behaviour, why should a man feel the need to say not all men? That’s irrelevant, she is not complaining of all men, but some men. The man may not be saying it never happens, but is derailing: it happens, it matters, and we should consider the experience of it, rather than judging the way it is shared. And, why feel any need to protest, if you do not feel guilty? What she wrote was “This is a form of control men often use”- not, all men; not, women don’t do something similar, though women may have less power in a relationship so might not, so much; but, men do it. Let us agree it is a bad thing, and try not to ourselves.

I dislike the line that “men suffer the same way”. Yes; but she was not claiming a right of retaliation, only saying it happens and is wrong. Someone signing a woman’s name accused Dr Gunter of an offensive, gross mischaracterization of an entire classification of people based on gender. That was not what I perceived. “Not all men” becomes a way of saying SHUT UP rather than a reasonable response.

She is worth reading for the facts on late abortions: after 25 weeks, a woman with a wanted pregnancy but health problems making continuing pregnancy too dangerous would have a C-section or induced labour. The child would be cared for. Concealed pregnancies, perhaps of a frightened teen or a rape survivor, are very rare. Sometimes a foetus has severe defects but the mother elects to carry anyway; but a foetus lying horizontally cannot be delivered vaginally.

She continually calls for our empathy. Some women don’t want a C-section in this situation for baby who can’t live. I think you can understand that. And Some women just can’t bear continuing. Imagine everyone touching your belly asking if you are having a boy or a girl and you know your baby has no brain? I have heard that story. It breaks people.

This post is particularly good on empathy, privilege, and thinking your way into someone else’s situation. You can’t experience the same situation, every situation is different, yet you should be able to imagine theirs. Assuming what someone else felt or might have felt based on your own experience (or wanted experience) is the opposite of empathy.

Once as a resident I rolled by eyes when discussing a woman who was presenting for her third abortion. I mean really, I thought. She’d been sent home after both of her previous abortions with 4 months of free birth control pills and here she was just six months later. My attending, an older man, took me aside and reamed me for that display of privilege. I’ve never forgotten that. In fact, it prompted me to design a study to look at that very question, why do women have repeat abortions? Guess what it turns out is a big factor? Domestic violence. Though empathy may be too much of a stretch for Republican authoritarians concerned for their own moral rightness.

I checked whether she had anything on transgender. She mentions it in passing, but always in a friendly way. The agency tasked with enhancing the “health and well-being of Americans” now believes that certain religious beliefs are more important than health care. This could apply to contraception, abortion, vaccines, addiction medicine, sexually transmitted infection screening, and transgender care just to name a few… government planning will be all based on some non science ideas such as life begins at conception, pre marital sex is wrong, anything but marital sex between cis women and men is wrong. If we think too much about the hostile people it colours our view of humanity. Here is a woman working for the rights of women, who is positive about trans people, and uses our words such as “cis”.

Things that cannot be said

There are words that I cannot say, or have great difficulty saying. I know them unconsciously, but part of me cannot admit them. Then I can think them, but not utter them to another. Then I take courage, and utter them; and then it becomes easier. Telling you makes it easier, but is not the same as saying these things out loud to another person.

I find it hard to admit that anything I do or think of doing is difficult.

I want to turn my life around– and that is more like a super-tanker than the knob on a cooker.

In shame, I hid away, and tried to conform.
-Conform with what?
-With an idea of what is normal, which is not necessarily shared by anyone else- it is influenced by others but is my own. That is why I had my balls cut off, why that pleased me so much at the time, and now I am kicking myself because my ideal was not real, and I should have realised that.

I am highly intelligent, unreconciled to a lifetime of Not Getting It. I am unwilling to admit that to myself. A jingle:

This is living
never knowing
what I need to know
Only knowing I was wrong
a year or ten ago.

If I can’t realise I am wrong, then I can’t realise I am right. If I change my mind I must have been wrong before, always wrong, and it is more complex. I have different understandings. I have been badly screwed up, and my work of disentangling myself is bringing these things to consciousness. A counselling session is a good place to do that, and I type notes at the time because I want to remember it exactly and not vaguely.

I don’t know what I meant by the note “Life now”.

I voice-recorded this session. I heard my long pauses, sometimes of several minutes, my failures to remember words, my joking and my struggle to find the truth. My hurt.

I will go on holiday.
-Let’s talk about something else.
-Well, we were talking of my whole way of being over fifty years, and now about specific interactions with other people for a week.

Four people aware of our otherness, wishing not to be noticed particularly. We will be quiet and decorous. We will face the problems of what is worth doing and how to do it with comfort and pleasure together. They can empathise by working out what they might feel in a similar situation rather than by mirroring. He will also have things which he finds difficult to think about, talk about, all those things one cannot acknowledge even to onesself.

Why go on holiday anyway? It is possible to find interesting and pleasant things to do, but requires effort. I am in conventional ideas of what is good or desirable. We went to Mafra where there was this painted plaster sculpture of men in armour beheading monks. There was one with his head detached, one kneeling to be beheaded, and two others waiting to be beheaded. WTF is that about? It is repugnant but interesting, a vile man who said I’m King and I can do what I like.

-I hear your awareness of them as different sorts of people, and I’m curious: how aware are they of you, and how do they hold your difference. I hope you might not be totally conventional with them.

I can relax with them. I got drunk in that wee restaurant, and then we walked home through the village, of large houses in commuting distance of Lisbon. They all have guard dogs so we walked home with this continuous chorus of dogs.

That was- different. Interesting. I don’t know that every moment will be delightful, but what is interesting is delightful.

I typed that, and immediately began questioning it in my mind. The next thing I typed was, Life is terrifying.

And I want to say to her what I want and I can’t. At least I can admit that to Tina.

Resisting shame

There are three ways people attempt to overcome shame. We move away from the stimulus, by disappearing into our own lives; move towards it, by trying to prove ourselves, attain perfection, people-please; and move against it, by using anger and trying to shame others. All of these dig us into the hole deeper, and move us farther from our present selves. They remove a little of the pain, only for it to come back later.

(What is the alternative to being present in the moment? Being stuck in the past, in failed past tactics for dealing with problems.)

These strategies do not work. They attempt to disconnect from the pain, but we must feel it, accept it and let it go. With a woman who tries to do her down, Brené Brown repeats her mantra: Don’t shrink and be small for people, don’t puff up and get arrogant and cocky, just stay on your sacred ground. Actually, that sounds quite perfectionist.  In shame, trying to respond rather than react after the woman pushes her buttons she says to herself do not talk, text or type. She has to bring matters to consciousness and soberly assess what the facts really are.

She says, face the shame and heal it with conversation; and with laughter, not as defence or deflection but recognition that I am not alone in this.

I am ashamed of my ways of dealing with shame. My mother taught me to people-please, to pretend to be the way I ought to be; to hide away; to be perfectionist. I am hiding away in my reclusive state, and ashamed of it, because I should not need to.

Much of this has been unconscious. It is all what I do, or what I ought to do, just the way the world is and reality is. I need to bring it into consciousness because otherwise I do not see what a burden it is. In order to go out to work, to face the world again, I need to turn my life around, and like a supertanker with a relatively small rudder I see what a big deal that is. Suddenly that expression is particularly meaningful. It’s huge.

Shame at my effeminate self made me attempt to make a man of myself, joining the territorial army (just about the place I least fitted) and then a woman, by having my testicles removed. It would have been a small price to pay to be normal, to have nothing to feel shame about, if it had worked.

Shame keeps me hiding away.

From Dr Brown’s assessment, self-esteem, considering my gifts and qualities, will not ameliorate shame by itself. Now, it seems that I am ashamed of everything, of all that I am and that I do, and even that I should be so shamed and so incapacitated by it. I fear being shamed if I go out, and then ashamed of not going out. These are powerful buttons for others to push. I am ashamed of what I do to resist feelings of shame. I am ashamed of my life, of the little I have made of it.

I deserve better.