Expressing emotions, as a trans woman

If you transition male to female, and take hormones, the sensation of your emotions becomes more immediate, more demanding. They impinge on you.

I was not actually crying, but thinking that if I do start to cry I won’t fight it, I’ll just let myself cry. Fighting it is the problem. Then I thought, if they asked, “Is there anything you need, Clare?” I would say, I might start to cry, and if I do don’t worry about it. I get emotional. It’s not a bad thing.

She told me, You have a remarkably calm presence most of the time. You are one of the few serene people I have ever encountered. And there’s a very sharp contrast.

I answered the bit about “serenity”. It’s the acceptance, isn’t it. I practise acceptance. I’m getting quite good at it.

-The majority of human beings are profoundly afraid of distress.

Elders told me my distress was a problem, and I thought, how can I not be distressed? (But perhaps I could prevent it from being visible.)

-It’s that we’re British.

What I’m saying is quite Hippy, really, hippy commune kind of stuff. Let it all hang out, I said: and then she just shut me down, started talking about a TV programme she liked, it had a hippy in it but really was not relevant. But- you’re a counsellor! You are supposed to work with this kind of thing! Hello! I’m Clare! I am emotional! That is, I have emotions like any human being.

All women have this problem. We talk about pre-menstrual tension. It starts in the teens. And to be taken seriously, in Britain at least, they have to appear calm. Perhaps also in US cities: being demonstrative or emotional makes a woman appear unserious, so that her ideas are not heard. Or simply being perceived as a woman therefore emotional, so that she has to cultivate that “serious” demeanour. Hannah Bardell could not come out as lesbian until her thirties, about six years ago.

Men can get rowdy when drunk, and alcohol weakens inhibitions. I don’t like men drunk.

How can I deal with my feelings in society? She had an Italian neighbour who was demonstrative: the energy, the effervescence, the sheer whirliness of that person was there, all the time. High, low, angry, you know, everything was marvellous or everything was shit, she was very angry or she was very upset, just constant.

-You have this calm, serene peace, and then it highlights your distress or passion in sharp relief, and that is what people perceive as “dangerous”. The trouble with this is, she has expressed the matter very positively, and if you call someone “dangerous” you might express it less positively.

Actually I think the dangerous part is the repression. I shove my feelings down below consciousness, and when they erupt (what a dangerous-sounding word) they have all the energy of that repression behind them, like a Jack-in-the-box.

I am dealing with my repression. On Monday I was sitting out in the gorgeous sunshine. The air was a bit chilly but there was almost no cloud. I was meditating for about half an hour, conscious of the birds, and what I was feeling came into my consciousness through allusion, through stories. I found myself thinking about X, and then thought, Oh! I am sad. As the feeling was acknowledged the story changed, and I found another feeling.

You transition, you start taking hormones, and your emotions become sharper and more demanding, yet it is not acceptable to express them and you have to deal with it.

For me, this is the heart of my spiritual growth at the moment, being conscious of my own feelings, my own inner guide, so that I perceive where I am and can respond to it rather than using failed responses designed to keep up appearances. That means reducing the repression. It is a tricky tightrope. I have been appearing calm by repressing feeling. I want to feel the feeling, which can mean appearing emotional, so that I get comfortable with feeling and can appear calm again.

I also want to appear intense. My intensity can feel threatening to some people. Intensity is liberating. Do not hide your light under a bushel. You have to be careful with it, though.

I was sitting in that office thinking of offices I have known. Katie mentioned “hot-desking” and I was back in the chaos of July 2006, not enough desks or computers, and the rest of that chaos. I was back in my terror. I have been broken, repeatedly, so I withdrew, and now I want to rejoin the human race.

And with Tina, she was always shutting me down. I say I want to be emotional, and she says it’s not British. I say I want to be intense, to dance like everyone’s watching, and inspire them to do the same. She says people perceive it as out of control.

-Control’s unbearable! I can’t do control! The control is why I broke! I value myself too much to control myself now. Possibly I might come out the other end and be more aware of when I am shining, but shining is Good! It’s me! Honest, truthful, living my integrity! My parents could not stand my intensity, and that is why it is still a problem. And Repression is the problem, a child’s way of dealing with the intensity or a low status way of dealing with it, don’t come to the alpha-male’s attention. Women got called “hysterical” and still are punished for being “emotional”. That’s what you wanted, right? To be treated as a woman?


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