The Planets

I am delighted to read The Planets by Andrew Cohen and Brian Cox. After the end of the Cassini, Juno and New Horizons missions is a perfect time for a popular survey of what we know of the solar system, and it is relaxing to know that if Professor Cox says Saturn’s rings are less than a hundred million years old he has good grounds for saying it, unlike many political statements.

I was thinking that it does not affect my life, but that is untrue. If Saturn did not exist, Jupiter would not be orbiting where it is, and Earth might not exist. If humans did not have the curiosity and the engineering and political skills to find these things out, the human race would be significantly different, and if I were not interested in such things I would not be me. Even a minor change such as one more or less 100km moon of Saturn would have a butterfly-effect, perhaps big enough to end life on Earth.

And our understanding is influenced by the culture. As a small child I could recite the names of the planets even as I could count to a hundred, but thought of them as more or less unchanged since the system formed. I remember calling Neptune a gas giant, then an ice giant. The thought of the system as changing, planets moving much closer to the Sun or further away is based on new data, including from exoplanets, but seeing wild change as possible rather than incremental improvement affects and is affected by how we see society, and what is politically possible.

None of it is certain. Theories explain data, but are subject to change, as new data are collected or new possibilities imagined.

I find the whole very beautiful, the images, the striving and achievement, and the sharing.

Cox is a romantic and inspiring writer. He can be sharp: I think one of the reasons why anthropogenic climate change is so difficult for a certain type of person to accept is that atmospheres seem ethereal and tenuous and incapable of trapping enough heat to modify the temperatures on a planet significantly. For such people I suggest a trip to Venus, where they will be squashed and boiled and dissolved on the surface of Earth’s twin.

The character of the scientist requires not only comfort with but attraction to the unknown; an acceptance and delight in the complexity of Nature… the search for certainty is a fool’s errand, and the lesson is to find delight in not knowing while simultaneously committing to extending the domain of the known. That’s the key to science, the key to happiness and the only reasonable response to the existential challenge of existence.

We live in a solar system of wonders, of planets of storms and moons of ice, of landscapes and vistas that stir the imagination and enrich the soul.

Unfortunately Andrew Cohen is not so inspiring, but with such material he rarely fails to fascinate. It could be better edited, though, I spotted some errors and I am no expert.

The idea that a system allowing complex life-forms to evolve might be rare, requiring precise events to happen in the changes of orbits of the planets and even a large moon to hold the angle of rotation fairly constant is hard. It is up to us to sustain life in our galaxy. The engineering triumphs and alien wonders give me hope.

The book takes me back to childhood, to simple wonder at the strangeness of space and the brilliance of the people finding its secrets. I devoured it.

Telling the Truth

“When you talked of courage and truth that really shone out to me,” she told me. It felt that I was speaking from my real self or my inner light. Now, after working on this for fifty minutes I am exhausted. I wanted to explore the barriers which prevent me from speaking, and I found myself beyond them.

Yesterday at the office I wanted to explain why I am there, and I couldn’t. The words would not come out. “Are you OK?” Yes, but I just can’t speak. I wanted to say, “I find it hard to believe anything good about myself” and a complex emotional mix of sadness frustration and resentment stopped me. I paused to try and sense these feelings fully and get past them, but could not. So the frustration increased.

Why bother? It is me stopping me saying these things, after all, one set of neurons and dendrites wanting to say it, another blocking it. The answer is introjects: I googled to check I understood the term. It is from psychoanalysis, meaning to unconsciously adopt the attitudes of others. The explanatory quote is revealing: “They introjected a sense of their own worthlessness”.

Introjects are not me. I seek my freedom.

I phoned Samaritans with the hope of finding what phrases I find hard to say, so that I could practise saying them. “My name is – “, she said. I can’t remember it. I was focused on my own need, and working hard on it.

“My name is Abigail,” I said. I would give that a nine, very difficult to say. It means coming out as trans, as my voice sounds so male on the phone. I take notes as I speak.

“I have some understanding of introjects.” Seven. Stating the difficulty is itself difficult.

“I have difficulty believing anything positive about myself.” Three. I have said that before.

“That must make life difficult,” she says, evenly, challenging my belief that it should all be easy for me.

“I am terrified!” I burst out, tearfully, high-pitched. Her acceptance is helping.

It’s to do with competing views of reality: as in Narnia, the witch puts the prince in the Silver Chair to save him from himself.

I practise saying that I understand what is going on.

“I sensed your difficulty saying your name,” she says.

Self-deprecation is easy. “I am not playing the game particularly well,” I say. I should try to pass better.

“It is important to accept who you are,” she says.

Yes! To practise speaking from sanity.

“Different roles are necessary for different situations,” she says.

I find it hard to get beyond small talk, I say. Then I pause to think. I can state my resentment of a past experience, but is that a line I want to go down?

Things are easier to say now. I tell my dangling rope story. “I have been broken repeatedly.” That’s a mere two. I can say it with stories.

“I have faced the world with courage, I say. Two again. I say it softly- indeed, I say it from my softness

Which is my strength

I now pause to check truthfulness. I seek the best words to express it. Softly- “One voice finds it easier to say than [pause for truth] others do.”

When I speak Truth I have this strength, I say.

“That must be very powerful,” she says. It is.

My theory is that if in mindfulness I pause to accept a feeling I can pass through it, then can speak.

What is the mask? Sometimes it is appropriate. In the office I apply myself steadily to particular tasks, not letting feelings hang out; yet the mask should not be screwed on so tightly that I can’t let it go. I feel I am almost always masked.

And some people, possibly musicians, barristers, politicians? can be themselves in their work, being not acting. Everyone is emotional, just some people’s emotions are accepted and validated and called “rational”, and some people’s are deprecated and called “emotional”.

I asked her for feedback, and she said, “When you talked of courage and truth that really shone out to me,” and that pleases me so much I have written it here twice. It is the Real me, the Inner Light.

Being emotional

Being emotional is freedom.

Being emotional is also an insult. We conspire to tell the story that some people are rational, making sensible decisions that should be followed, and some people are emotional so should be discounted.

We have two alternatives, to have feelings or emotions. We sense our own feelings, and give little outward sign of them, or perforce show our emotions with our faces and bodies for all to see. And deride. The dominant person, usually male, has and shows the right feelings and emotions which we admire, and lower status people are emotional, because they feel the wrong things which get in the way of sane and sensible decisions.

I notice my mouse hardly moves the pointer. Great sweeps of my hand barely move it an inch. So I swap it with another. I have to change my password, and oddly make the same miskey the twice I type it, so the computer and I disagree about what it is. So I can’t log in again. I call computer support, which can take over my computer to let me reset my password but not this computer. So I have to switch on the other computer, pass the phone over the screen between the booths, pull out enough of its cable to let it sit on the desk, go back and get the other mouse….

And all I wanted was to log on, which I should do in a jiffy and without help! I am humiliated. Not by others who are happy to help and pass the phone over, but by the distance between my desire and my power. And much of my energy goes on suppressing that feeling below my own consciousness, which I think means that my body shows it to everyone as emotion, though I do not have the brass neck to ask. Rather than being my fuel, my unacceptable emotions hobble me.

All this is hard work. Ten hours a week with others is exhausting to me.

Of course your feelings are intense, says Tina. Consider children, how their joy is unbounded, their rage and misery too, and then they notice adults do not behave that way, and stop.

She was so delighted by the joy of her grandson! We clustered round her phone to watch in delight.

My current idea of mastery is feeling my feelings so they do not show as emotion, rather than my old tactic of suppressing them out of consciousness. Showing them, being allowed to, admired rather than despised for them seems impossible.

Why would you not want your feelings seen? Because they are mine, and no one else’s. My sense of the world not a weapon to be held against me, a traitor inside my brain. And I do not want to suppress them, because that means suppressing my own voice. I want to be heard.

So I am pleased when I can say to Tina “I find it hard to believe anything good about myself, or that anyone could have regard for me”. Rather than suppress the feeling and have it manifest in tears I feel it so can say the sentence with only a slight quaver in my voice. This is progress. It means I get better at seeing who and how I am rather than suppressing it because it is too painful to admit.

My inability to accept my feelings disempowers me so that I cannot know myself or others. I am stymied, trussed up by it.

How might a “party” be? Twenty minutes in the group room making desultory conversation while a cake sits uneaten in a corner, or the afternoon off drinking and getting a taxi home from the nightclub at three? Somewhere between these extremes. I am unsure where, and I need to Know so I will not be disappointed. I do not go, though I have been invited- valued more than I value myself- as this session has been so much hard work.

Or how might others see me? To be despised or beloved. Such extremes, neither likely. How might I see better?

All this is hard work. I am still learning the lessons of teenage.

I had not wanted to go to the office. I had no motivation. I had to force myself. Yet when I went it was alright. People were OK.

Erotic dreams

It is a sign of maturity to have accepted your own sexual nature.

I had an erotic dream the other night. I was wearing a long tight corset which held my penis pointing down between my legs, and my penis strained to be fully erect. In my dreams I have a penis. Then I woke up.

Last century I had dreams of being in a room perhaps in a theatre, trying on lots of costumes. I was utterly ashamed and frustrated. For others, their sexuality united them with a partner, and mine kept me alone. It may even be another reason I sought treatment, to lessen my sexual desire. I was bringing myself off looking at pictures of me dressed female. I was rueful about this. I had been told it was reinforcement activity: the more you do it the more you want to. After the op, others have sexual sensation in their “clitoris”, I almost none, and that was a relief.

Why tell you this? It would please trans-obsessive feminists, who would see it as more evidence we are male sexual perverts. But they have enough evidence to convince them anyway. In humiliation, shouting my ridiculousness into the ether, there is perverse freedom. One more thing I don’t have to worry about people finding out. And I find my blog reassures people who feel the same way. We are not alone.

In 1993, I waltzed with Jan, and she started to lead. I objected. “I thought you wanted me to lead,” she said. I did, but did not know it I had suppressed the desire so much. In December 2015 I pulled you on to the dance floor and wanted you to lead, and you went off and we rowed. I was so confused and hurt and I think you were too. Later you told me you had so wanted a man to swirl you onto the dance floor. And now you are strong, using your hurt and anger as fuel and affirmed by your audiences…

I discussed you with H, who told me, “You are giving away your power.” I thought, I do not want power, I want to be winsome, sought for my sweetness.

After I left Scotland Dad had Jan over to dinner, and she took him to bed.

C told me some men read her as dominant, and it was a faff- they wanted dominated precisely in the way they desired, and would not do what she wanted.

I found that passage from Ulysses erotic, even though I knew it was riffing on cliches of the time, such as the school play. “With this ring I thee own” is brilliant.

In the corridor, I saw F, high status woman, walking as if she owned the place, and enjoyed it. Then she turned to look at me and I was abashed. It was definitely a sexual thought in me, and that was highly inappropriate: and people desire others.

A woman I hardly knew, executing the Promenade movement, pulled my hand back slightly and I felt displayed, vulnerable. It was delicious and terrifying, and she had read me and I had not seen it in her at all.

Porn and discreet services, dominating or sissifying, seem to miss the point. There must be a way to live it in relationship. Dad managed that twice. I don’t have a handle on it, a cultural template. All the words for it are horrible, pansy, harridan, “woman wearing the trousers”, Joyce’s old “Petticoat government”. I read there are far more pansies than harridans. Seeing my mother’s photograph you were surprised she did not look a particular way. There is a certain look. Not all women like that have it.

I remain with this vulnerable, hurt feeling. In Pose, Electra’s gentleman friends will pay her rent and an allowance, for sex. As they penetrate her they like to know she has a penis, and may fondle it. After her operation they don’t want her. They want to humiliate a man. I don’t want humiliation; I want to see beauty in my vulnerability. I might then come to terms with it, though it frightens me so much.

I wrote that, then read a story with the line “I wanted a nice Canadian man… I wanted him to take me, first to bed, then to the altar.” I wanted him to take me.

Slut! I thought.

How brave! I thought, even to write that through the persona of a fictional character.

It’s all right for you! I thought. You’re a woman!

Our desires are heaven and hell, possibilities to create and dreams to make reality unbearable.

Cross-dressing in James Joyce’s Ulysses

All is changed by woman’s will… with this ring I thee own.

Leopold Bloom, drunk in the brothel at midnight, is effortlessly dominated by Bella Cohen. The massive whoremistress is dressed in a three quarter ivory gown, and cools herself with a black horn fan.

-Married, I see. And the Missus is master. Petticoat government.

He confesses it is so.

-You are mine. It is fate.

He begs her to dominate him. She lets him retie the knot in her boot. She places her heel on his neck, and grinds it in.

-Bow, bondslave, before the throne of your despot’s glorious heels.

Having dominated, Bella is coaxing: “Come, ducky dear, darling, there’s a good girly now. Oh, ever so gently, pet, get ready, I want to administer correction.”

“No more blow hot and cold. What you longed for has come to pass. You will shed your male garments, you understand? and don the shot silk luxuriously rustling over head and shoulders and quickly too.”

“You will be laced with cruel force into vicelike corsets of soft dove coutille, with whalebone busk, to the diamond-trimmeÄŹ pelvis, restrained in nettight frocks, pretty two ounce petticoats and fringes stamped, of course, with my hoseflag, wigged, perfumesprayed, with smoothshaven armpits. The frilly flimsiness of lace round your bare knees… ”

He confesses again. “I tried her things on only once, to save the laundry bill… ”

“It was Gerald who converted me to be a true corsetlover when I was female impersonator in the high school play.”

She will make him work as housemaid, emptying the chamber pots. She auctions him off to the Cailiph Haroun Al Raschid. “The scanty, daringly short skirt, riding up at the knee to show a peep of white pantalette, is a potent weaponand transparent stockings, emerald gartered, with the long straight seam trailing up beyond the knee, appeal to men about town.”

Bloom, broken, closely veiled for the sacrifice, sobs, his face to the earth.

How to hate trans women

You may have come across trans women, and not known it. Some of us look and sound indistinguishable from other women. And some of us you could spot a mile off, because we look like men in drag; but if you talk to us you will see we are not like men, being culturally feminine, and often humble and unassuming, or badly hurt.

Hate works best with a kernel of truth. Tell the truth, first, to create a feeling of righteous anger. If you started by dehumanising us, people would see through it.

The first truth to tell is general, about the difficulties women have. There is no such thing as female privilege. Male violence against women and girls is everywhere: FGM, honour killing, immolation, rape, sexual assault…

This is all true. Remind women of what they have to be angry about. The hope is that you can then get them angry about something new.

The next step is the half-truth. “If Government proposals go ahead, any man will be able to declare himself a woman.” It’s probably not good to dwell on this too much. After all, apart from trans women, who would? Perhaps a few anti-trans campaigners. Graham Linehan might try, to prove a point. However he probably would not succeed. How can you swear before a magistrate that you intend to live life-long in the opposite gender, when presenting male? If he dressed up for the occasion, he would still not be protected from possible charges of perjury.

So it’s better to rush over that bit. Don’t elaborate, or people will see through it, unless they are predisposed against trans people to start with.

Then you start on bad things that trans women have done. Unfortunately, the Times and other media publicise trivial things which put a trans woman in a bad light. Tara Wolf has done us a great deal of harm, made worse by all the publicity.

Then, you start on particular issues. Keep negative. It does not matter that the problem is always something else: on trans women in women’s prisons, the problem is the underfunding of prisons and the authoritarian drive to imprison people who should never be there. Karen White was in a women’s prison because the authorities failed to implement their own rules properly, and did not have proper security. But that does not matter: Karen White is the perfect monster, to allege The Tranny Threat.

If your audience is inclined to be sympathetic with trans people, you can claim to be too- but only in theory, never in practice. You do not oppose the decent transsexuals, you say, the ones who want no trouble; but you claim that any actual trans woman is not truly transsexual. You say they have autogynephilia, and ignore the fact that theory is discredited. You claim they have penises, though most trans women want surgery. Insist that they are all men. Act as if absolutely everybody is clearly a man or a woman, and deny that culture has any effect on this. Yes, people have been transitioning all over the world for millennia, but if that gets mentioned deny it and move swiftly on to anger issues.

You must never allow any of the positives of trans recognition to be mentioned. Just deny them, and keep emphasising anything women should be angry about. Drown out all mention of the tiny proportion of the population that is trans: 0.1%, but even were it 1% that is still very few people. Trans people subvert gender by obviously not conforming, but insist that they enforce traditional gender roles against all the evidence.

And then you will have created a new hate group. Your right wing, authoritarian funders will rejoice (its probably better to deny the right wing funding). You will achieve nothing for feminism, because you will divert feminist energy against a non-existent problem. But you will have a delicious feeling of righteous anger.

Audre Lorde explained: Institutionalized rejection of difference is an absolute necessity in a profit economy which needs outsiders as surplus people. As members of such an economy, we have all been programmed to respond to the human difference between us with fear and loathing and to handle that difference in one of three ways: ignore it, and if that is not possible, copy it if we think it is dominant, or destroy it if we think it is subordinate. But we have no patterns for relating across our human differences as equals. As a result, those differences have been misnamed and misused in the service of separation and confusion.

Spreading hate does the Masters’ work.

The Word of the Lord

Is a Minute of a Quaker meeting the Word of the Lord, like the Bible? If we say the Spirit moves us to speak in Ministry, then arguably it is. But the Bible is self-contradictory, including different perspectives, and a growth in spiritual understanding. It is filtered through the minds of humans (there are arguments that some passages are by women) who confess to see “through a glass, darkly”.

I think Christine AM Davies in her Swarthmore Lecture coined the term “God’s loving purposes”. God’s Will sounds Eternal and unchanging, but we seek God’s will for us, now. Our understanding grows, as we continually return to matters: London Yearly Meeting in 1727 censured the importing of Black slaves; in 1758 warned Friends against profiting from the slave trade; in 1761 recommended that any who persist in the slave trade be disowned, and in 1772 approved work to stop others trading slaves. In 1793 LYM minuted, “we desire that Friends may never suffer the cause [of anti-slavery] to cool on their minds”. At last, Friends were campaigning enthusiastically as a Society, but it had taken decades, during which some Quakers had been slave traders. I found these minutes quoted in the Book of Discipline of 1861, the year the American Civil War started.

Meeting for Sufferings in 1987 moved towards supporting a “celebration of commitment” of gay couples in Meetings. The minute records the difficulties: “The acceptance of homosexuality distresses some Friends”. Not personal displays of affection during Meeting for Worship, not even gay relationships, but homosexuality itself. The distress may linger: 16.07 explicitly requires registering officers to officiate at gay marriages. I am sad that such a rule may be necessary, even though I have heard it has been used about a straight marriage: responsibility for discerning that a marriage should take place is the AM’s and not the registering officer’s.

The Minute from YM 2009 has the line “marriage is the Lord’s work and we are but witnesses,” taken from Ministry from a Friend previously Biblical in his opinion on equal marriage. It also says “we have been reminded of the need for tenderness to those who are not with us who will find this change difficult.” What difficulty would they suffer? They would have felt that their particular understanding of God and the Bible was shared among Friends. For whatever reason, acceptance of gay people’s relationships has acquired enormous symbolic power in many Churches as well as among Friends, to divide some Friends who feel they respect God’s Will from those of us who accept God may match gay couples. Could God’s Will be different for different Yearly Meetings? Yes. Community and tradition have value, we all have our blind spots. We know only in part, and we prophesy only in part.

As clerk, there is one minute I drafted which I regret in particular, when I brought the matter to a close prematurely and picked one side in a dispute. The hurt of the dispute continued. I also recorded a minute where it seemed to me there was no particular opposition to spending money in a particular way, but no Pentecostal sense of the Will of God either. Months later a Friend spoke against the decision at an AM. A new clerk wrote a minute showing agreement, and the Friend did not challenge the minute; I am grateful for my Friend’s forebearance, and feel we might have reached consensus rather than Unity. A Friend may oppose a Minute, yet once it is recorded support it as the Leading of the meeting; and there was enough for those dealing with the project to go ahead.

I drafted just one minute recording different views- some say this, but some say that; I was careful to record the reasons, positively, as well as I could in the words used in ministry, and I was helped by Friends suggesting amendments to my draft. We resolved the issue at the next AM.

I am aware of a Friend resigning membership because of the way a decision was made, seen to be forced through based on what he thought was another’s misapprehension. We are fragile, sometimes, and we can be stiff-necked.

Not every Friend is a left-liberal social justice warrior (mostly clicktivist, in my case) like me. At Friends House I saw a man reading the Telegraph! I even know a Friend who voted to Leave! It is comforting to imagine ones Friends think the same way, and we don’t always. We adopted in 1793 “the cause of our fellow-men, the oppressed black people,” and now some of us are waking up to the lingering oppression. Hence the term “woke”.

Considering minute 33 of Yearly Meeting in London 2019, I don’t think we are all “seeking to become aware of the unseen and unspoken chains that bind us”, and particularly not through the lens of the concept of privilege. I love the idea that We must learn our weaknesses and those of our Friends to live with one another. I think we sensed our weakness and division. I hope we can carry along any who do not recognise this concept of privilege, and particularly those who feel their disprivilege is minimised compared to that of others. White privilege exists [download pdf from 1989, then consider a reassessment from 2018]. Possibly starting with class privilege would be good: our privilege can change over time, we will be privileged and disprivileged in different ways, we can share experiences, get to know each other, and learn; though even then we will hear challenging things. Should women talk about male privilege amongst themselves, before doing it in a mixed sex group?

This is not the only area of work where particular Friends have a particular calling, and other Friends are uninvolved. But we have a Minute recording our calling. One of our rules is that we need good reason to reopen a decision once minuted, and in 2017 we decided,

We have heard the call to examine our own diversity, particularly in our committee and organisational structure, locally and nationally. Diversity has several key dimensions and more may emerge in the future. We ask Meeting for Sufferings to look at how we can remove barriers and actively seek wider participation in the full life of our meetings, paying particular attention to race and age diversity. Then in our epistle we wrote, We need to recognize our own selfishness and privilege: to be changed ourselves, to live as if the Kingdom of God were already fulfilled. Our YM minutes have always exhorted us.

My right to my feelings and perceptions

He told me that “Look mate, I don’t know if you’re a man or a woman” is not clearly objectionable. He explained that I have quite a deep voice. I am glad Tina reacted to this with incredulity: it helps me value my own view. If I go up to a man and say something unrelated to my trans status, and he responds with that, he is saying that I am a weirdo (his tone of voice emphasised that, but the phrase shows it). That is only relevant if he thinks it means I do not deserve his respect.

I tend to hope that line is generally seen as abusive. However, the bland denial has a purpose: to show that my response was objectionable. I am reduced to the plight of William Brown, saying “I was just statin’ a fact”- often, William is. If I proceed, I will face more denial of facts seeming self-evident to me. It is destabilising for me when someone asserts 2+2=5, but fortunately we do not have to agree on all facts, and no-one has a cage with a rat in it to hand.

In mindfulness practice, I develop self-respect. I am clearer about my judgment and my feelings. I have a right to both. This does not mean that I will not take another’s perspective into account, but that I will not merely submit to it. I will exercise my own judgment.

Whose feelings and perceptions matter? When we want a common understanding (which is often reassuring) how do we reach it?

She said, Is this going to have a unilateral application across all diversities? Should it be essential for everybody to have a self-respect which is impervious in order to be part of these meetings?

No, I said. I meant that I desire the equality of others. Now, I think it helps to know different perceptions may coexist. Those things I resent about H- I was thinking of saying, possibly she couldn’t have done anything better- I actually said, anything else. I don’t want to enforce my idea of “better”. Better for whom?

This is humility! Why does it appear arrogant to others?

-I have great strength as well as terrifying weakness.
-Of course: and also great weakness and terrifying strength.
-Terrifying for whom?
-Other people, who don’t expect you to have it? Human beings are a marvellous mess of paradoxes and dichotomies and conundrums and everything else-

The mercurial organismic self responds unpredictably because it responds to the actual situation it perceives. Its perceptions may be incomplete or inaccurate, but it continually reevaluates them. Unfortunately part of the situation is the self-concept’s need to believe certain things about itself. The self-concept is a great burden to the organismic self.

How can you be a square peg in a round hole? It’s difficult. It may be sustainable for a time but not permanently, eventually you revolt. Or you might manage it if you know what you’re doing, or perhaps if you appreciate the needs of the hole. It’s not wrong, it’s just different.

-At the moment you are strong. YM did you good. I am curious about what your isolation means for you?
-I refuse to surrender belief in possibilities.
-There are eejits in every gathering of human beings. I wish they were more clearly marked.
-Well, we just have to open our mouths, you know.

I get knocked down. But I get up again…

In the actual situation, I wrote:

I feel anxious about being late. The way I respond is self-soothing behaviour which actually makes me more late. When I start getting ready I will feel my anxiety and hurry. Or despondency (which I feel now) around not measuring up. This lessens my energy and motivation.

I want to meditate on feelings, but I have to go. I am putting down the burden of my feelings, and picking it up in a different way. How do I know what was going on in that situation? Well, it seems reasonable. I can’t know that the people making the decision knew what I knew. I thought they did, and it made them do what they did. But possibly no-one reported to them, and they didn’t ask.

I was stressed, then, and again arriving late, so that I even thought of giving a long elaborate explanation of my feelings and how they affect me, but decided that’s a big excuse to be saved for another time. My lateness, less than five minutes, is noticed and possibly hinted at but not commented on directly, and I don’t apologise for it.

Human relationships are difficult!

Hubert van Eyck

This painting from around 1410 shows what people are thinking. It may have been begun by Hubert van Eyck, and completed by his more famous brother Jan. Consider first the Three Marys, at the empty tomb:

The first is sad, simply mourning. The second is trusting, being told something and having faith. But the third is thinking, assessing, coming to her own conclusion.

Here is the Angel, holding forth the glad tidings:

The face is closer to the not quite human expressionlessness of earlier art, though the gesture of the arms is persuasive. The soldiers are cast into sleep.

I publish paintings because I wanted free pictures for my posts, and don’t devote enough time or energy to my own photography, but also because I love them, and want you to see at least all the beauty I see in them.

Trans and me

Transcending difficulties…

Trans is rarely the issue in any of my problems, but it adds difficulty to almost all of them.

Trans is simply who I am. To resent it is to wish I did not exist, and that someone entirely different was in my place. Trans is how some people are, so if it is despised and rejected that is a fault within society, and the resentment should be against the social norms producing that rejection, as with the social model of disability. I could just accept it rather than deconstructing it. I am writing this in part because the last time I tried it I wrote a lot about my sexuality.

Or, trans is an interaction of who I am with society. To state what I think now about being trans, and of trans as a thing, I have to consider all of society and all of myself, and in particular my sexuality, my desires and how they change over time, our gendered society from a feminist perspective of patriarchy and sexism and also what it means to be a man, my other character and circumstances. Trans is the most important thing in my life, still. I have to distinguish being trans from transitioning, or I might imagine that transition has caused all my problems. Given that I am trans, transition may be the best thing I could have done.

There is no trans community, I said, and she agreed. She was at a conference of mostly trans people, who were suddenly plunged into a “more woke than thou, more oppressed than thou” fight. The speaker talked of “transgenders” meaning “trans women” and someone said, we don’t use that language, it is considered offensive. Then others piled on her in righteous indignation: in different cultures language is different, you should accept her language, this is post-colonial oppression. The lecture hall is an example of patriarchal pedagogy. I am more oppressed than you because I am autistic and bipolar as well as trans. There were calls to ignore the programme of papers and panel discussion and thrash this debate out there and then (which would be impossible). People were talking while others were giving papers. Leave the Hall! It’s totally disrespectful!

I like to think I can see when someone means to be offensive. When they just don’t understand, seeing whether they are trying hard enough to is more difficult: that depends on how patient I am feeling at the time. And today I cycled past a group of teenagers and one of them said, in a tone to project to the Gods, “Is that a man or a woman?” How?

We must try to avoid playing the white saviour, I said. I note I find it hard to see my good qualities. Am I taking an interest in white privilege as an analogue to my own issues, which I don’t name directly? Of course that’s part of it. Yet there is good, in what I say about white privilege and in standing up against my own oppression. I would have sought, at that conference, to find calm and a common way forward. Or shut up because I couldn’t make it better. I hope, I think-

You said something about trans women being like teenage girls. And, that’s just one thread in a whole tapestry of challenges and struggles. It’s not wholly accurate but it is a convenient way of seeing it, for ordinary people but for trans people too. It’s humanity under a microscope. We are scrutinised and analysed and described. It’s like that for all human diversity, our differences pored over, judged. But is not everyone like a teenage girl? We all have emotions. It’s just people don’t tolerate some people’s expression of them.

I got very emotional, years ago. For example someone said to me, how’s the jobsearch going? And I burst into tears. I don’t deflect the question, turn it into small talk, mutter things to make my position look better than it is, or take it as an opportunity to explain my woes, I just burst into tears.

I was on the phone, and I wanted to say, “I am completely isolated”. I wanted to explain. And this distresses me, and I could feel the distress rising. Saying it apparently almost calmly, rather than bursting out with it, involved

thinking the words that I wanted to say
Feeling what that felt like.
Savouring it, digesting it
and then saying the words.

This is ongoing practice. It was something I knew, rather than an idea new to me, so being present, mindfulness as a means of regulating emotion, worked. I am making progress. Suppressing the feeling does not work, it just bursts out.

What are the background emotions? Perplexity and resentment are two of my ground bass. Letting them show isn’t a good thing, so I was taught not to admit them to myself. I wonder how many people feel that way. It’s not- a trans woman thing- it’s how I am, and how perhaps many people are. It is a lot to digest, particularly under the microscope. This is who I am, so that has to be acceptable, at least to me. I am getting there.