Stating the problem IV

Like many pop songs, it has just one good line, but it is a very good line:

We are, we are driving
we are driving too fast
we are, we are driving
we will crash

There’ll be fire
fire when we crash
There’ll be fire
fire when we crash

Skype counselling session. I have my love intimacy sexuality weekend coming up, I am going to see someone I have not seen since about 2001, and tell her not to transition, and I have lunch with Quakers tomorrow.

I love the Human Awareness Institute. I will find their weekend distressing, useful, challenging, wonderful. My aim is to pass through distress to enlightenment, to bring my repressed unconscious to consciousness. I love their slogan, “Creating a world where everyone wins”.

I will tell Hannah not to transition. Long term, it is a mistake, though short term it is wonderfully liberating.

I will ask those Quakers what they expected- that I would just vanish? I cycled on Sunday for 55 minutes to Kettering, about 55 minutes back, because Quakers are my main social outlet. I am sociable, and today my longest conversation has been buying apples, lettuce, grapes and plums at the fruit and veg stall. I want those, he wants £4.09, no other chat took place.

Life now is as good as I can imagine it. This is the best I can do. I don’t want to work, even though not looking makes me more vulnerable to the biggest threat in my life, losing my benefits. My life is in Limbo, and a kick up the arse might do me good? No, this is the best I can do. Work would be some of the time horrible, most of the time just unpleasant and dull.

I am in the best situation I can imagine, though it is not sustainable. In the future, when my benefits stop, the best will be worse than this- some horrible job- but all I could do is embrace that worse now, and that makes no sense.

-How do you think people will react to you turning up as a man?
-Some will think I’m an arse, some will see how beautiful and fascinating I am and like it and express that.
-Will you hear them?
-Yes. I am beautiful and fascinating.
-Why so distressed and angry and frustrated?
-Because beautiful and fascinating is not good enough, and I can’t achieve better than this.

Now, I am distressed, frustrated (in Limbo) and frightened, and I think of Rebekah. She lives in Tel Aviv. I met her in London, for less than half an hour, and at her suggestion we facebook friended. Most of her shares are in Hebrew, and pre-AI translate is poor, but she posted some wonderful pictures of her in a wedding dress, feeling delighted, and looking wonderful. She is paralysed and needs a motorised wheelchair but she is blissful.

Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

-I am beautiful, fascinating, highly intelligent, creative, loving
-Unloved. I wish we had another hour to go further into this, she says.

We make another appointment. Perhaps work so revolts me because the only authority figure I can conceive is my mother: unjust, unyielding, capricious and wrong.

An open mind

How could you know if you had an open mind? If something disproves what you believe you know, could you change your opinion, or would you just ignore it?

I still debate with young-earth Creationists, mainly on Violet’s blog. I listened to this fascinating programme on the Paleocene/Eocene thermal maximum. About 56m years ago, over a period of about 1,000 to 20,000 years, vast amounts of CO2 were emitted into the atmosphere, by volcanoes and burning coal deposits, and the temperature of the planet increased. There were forests at the poles. Global temperatures increased by 5-8°C. Different assertions will have different levels of dispute or certainty, and for the educated layperson a scientist might elide certain details for ease of explication, but the broad outline is clear. I find it wonderful how the evidence is recovered and interpreted, the care and precision of the investigators, the wealth of evidence. So I recommended the programme to two YECs, hoping that they would be as inspired by it as I was.

Sadly, Tiribulus wasn’t. He did not intend “sneering derisive dismissal”, he said, but accused the scientists of “spectacular intellectual dishonesty”. He claimed to understand their “claims”, but also their “method bias and out of hand pre-conclusions”. All unbelievers have similar bias, he says.

His response makes me miserable. The language of “bias”, formulated to enable us to see how we misinterpret evidence and help us perceive more clearly, he uses to write off something which challenges his view. Unbelievers cannot think properly, he says, as Jesus quoting Isaiah predicted- He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them.

He is defended against challenge to his falsehoods, because he has a great need to believe them- so that he can remain part of his community, so that he is not distressed by the falsehoods the community spouts, perhaps so that he can feel superior to outsiders, or ignore them, and possibly because he experienced his life before conversion as chaotic and “sinful”, and feels any backsliding from his current position means falling into similar sin.

He has threatened to recommend something to me, claiming “fairness” would oblige me to listen or read it. I might not spend fifty minutes on it.

How would I know if I were open minded? I am open minded on Creationism. I am aware of theories of the origin and development of the Bible, and how the story of the Flood was adapted from a Sumerian legend, part of the epic of Gilgamesh. As I pick up more about the detail and complexity of understanding of the geologic column, I am inspired by the beauty of it. But then my community does not require me to believe idiocies.

Why does he comment there? Because he sees unrepentant sinners, and wants God to “save us from our sin and give us a new heart”- Because you are fellow bearers of the image and likeness of our God and I care about you. 

Tiribulus believes he understands about the Bible and the errors of unbelievers, and that prevents him coming to the truth. I will not be open minded where I particularly need to believe something, or imagine I understand but do not. When I am not open minded I may imagine I am- for I could not know. I have sought out hints and subtle indications, and sometimes been rewarded.

Perhaps it is all a waste of energy. I grope for greater understanding, but perhaps those who are satisfied with their understanding are better off, devoting their attention to more important, worthwhile things. The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity. They might be more effectual.

The arguments for transition

It lets you be yourself.

You may become obviously a trans woman. You may become impotent and infertile because of hormones or surgery. You may spend a great deal on transition, on clothes finding a style that works, on hair removal, or on baldness treatments. You may suffer all of this. But it lets you be yourself.

You will still find it difficult to “be yourself” in certain situations. At work, you will probably do some things you do not enjoy doing, with people you do not like- not all the time, but some of the time. You will find places you can be yourself in your own time, such as Doctor Who cosplay, perhaps, channelling aspects of your character you cannot express elsewhere, or extrovert, even exhibitionist tendencies.

You should be able to be yourself with your family, but some families prevent this. Possibly most do, to some extent. That is how we develop blind spots, where we don’t know things about ourselves which others see clearly. We put up a façade to try to fool others, and even sometimes to fool ourselves, and there are parts so deeply repressed that no-one can see them. You should be able to be yourself with a partner.

I don’t believe I have a female spirit, soul or essence. I am a materialist. Professor Brian Cox puts it this way: CERN shows how particles interact. If there were spiritual forces interacting with matter, we would have observed them. Spiritual understandings still explain observed phenomena- “I have a female spirit” is a useful way of putting it, because people understand, but there are better ways of saying the same thing: “I have characteristics seen as feminine in my culture”.

I don’t have a female brain, and nor do androphile trans women. There are certain sex differences between brains, and trans women can have certain female characteristics in their brains, but it is not true that trans women before treatment have clear female sexual dimorphism of the brain, or that anyone does.

Patriarchy through culture oppresses women, feminine and gender diverse people. It is hard for a man to be feminine. So I suppressed my feminine self, which I could only express through cross-dressing, and otherwise tried to hide from everyone.

I am meeting someone for the first time in at least fifteen years, and will advise her not to transition. Don’t make the same mistake I did. “There was a door you did not see”. This is based on the above rational case; but people do not do what is in our rationally chosen best interests. It misses out the other argument for transition- that I wanted to, more than anything else in the world.

It is compulsive. It is sexually arousing. I tend to feel it is sexually arousing because it is compulsive, rather than the other way around, but still. I tend to feel it is compulsive because

It is a way to be yourself!

It is a way to be able to accept being yourself, to be yourself, let down your guard, know yourself, admit yourself, tolerate yourself, stop acting and pretending and feel less that you are wrong and inadequate. It is water in a desert, sunshine and flowers when you have been locked in a cellar. It is the best truth many people can find.

The masculine act is not you. Can you find another way to be yourself other than transition? Transition if, despite the consequences- mockery and prejudice, infertility, and cost and effort- it is the best way available to be yourself.

Say… something nice

To Stanwick Lakes, for the Doctor Who costuming group. Missy is my favourite fictional trans character. I could dress in her style with my own clothes, for she dresses like a trans woman.

The David Tennant character has his hair like that all the time. Perhaps just a little more gel today. His friend is in the Sealed Knot, and they really take it seriously, live it for a whole weekend then pack it away in the car.

Queen Victoria, in her wheelchair, absolutely refused to play Davros. Victoria appeared in the story “Tooth and Claw”- she reminded me, and I remembered the story, including why the Koh-i-noor diamond was repeatedly cut, to be far smaller. Only repelling aliens could justify such vandalism. We chatted away, and her UNIT soldier stood by her without speaking, but when she got fed up with her lace cap and took it off, he folded it carefully and put it in a pocket.

Lisa as Sarah-Jane Smith had the hand of fear, which became Eldrad. It was the hand of a mannequin which she had spray-painted with rock-like paint. Someone else had badges which were given free with cereal in the early 70s: the set of six is £750 on e-bay. Lisa’s favourite Master was Roger Delgado, always failing, his mind control did not work because people were too strong, his allies were always betraying him. She did not like John Simm. We both love Michelle Gomez, and quote lines at each other.

I was sad their Peter Capaldi lookalike was not here. He tends to be more Malcolm Tucker than the Doctor when in costume. Ace’s baseball bat was signed by Sophie Aldred.

What do you do? Dress up and take photographs.

Missy would not be fazed by a cyberman. The voicebox produces a cyber voice too.

There are conventions most weekends. The actors come- Billie Piper was in Birmingham last weekend, “David Tennant” had met Julian Glover- so we reminisce about his episode, forging copy Mona Lisas to free himself from being shattered through time and space.

And- a female Doctor!

Femmephobia

Femmephobia is devaluing the feminine and only valuing the masculine, seen in those strands of feminism which work only for the interests of masculine women, in conservatism cutting the welfare state for dog eat dog survival of the richest, and my own internalised transphobia, my shame at being Unmanly. Where feminine is seen as wrong in men or restricting in women, that is femmephobia.

The feminine is the precision-engineered ball-bearings making the engine of complex modern society run smoothly, without which it will seize up. The feminine is the nurturing which gives people solid ground to walk on, faith in a secure, loving home from which they can venture out to strive, achieve and do good. Management styles seeking to develop a worker, increase their confidence and job satisfaction, and thereby get the best from them, involve feminine care to see the good and correct by praise not blame. Macho dominance does not work.

We are a social species, living together in vast cities, crammed up against each other in underground commuter trains, our faces inches apart. We need restraint and care for each other to manage this. Feminine delight in colour and beauty brings joy.

Why fear it?

Feminism recognises the devaluing of women, though often it conflates projecting femininity onto women, demanding femininity from them even where it does not fit, judging them as unfeminine, with that devaluation. If a feminist imagines patriarchy oppresses women in general, not just her, by imposing “femininity”, she misunderstands other women and comes to loathe femininity. Then feminism becomes a minority pursuit for unfeminine women.

Where men lack security, in our modern violent world, they conflate femininity with weakness. If he once rests or lets down his guard, like Samson sleeping on the lap of Delilah he loses his strength and is enslaved. In acceptance, femininity finds strength and resilience, the ability to bend where the unyielding will break.

When trans women are brought up to be Real Men, rejecting femininity as weakness, as Wrong for them so that they will always be inadequate, we fear it in ourselves and fear any sign of it letting others find out- for they will mock and deride and humiliate us. Even after transition I find it hard to relax into my femininity.

Only once be unmanly, and you have lost your honour forever? That myth prevents people from accessing their gifts, the anima in man, the animus in woman, from being the self that best answers each situation. It is like throwing out half the tools in your box, and using a hammer where a screwdriver is needed.

I find it hard to relax into my femininity, even though I wear a wig, make-up, and skirts. I am not manly, nor seen as such, yet still experience my femininity as a lack not a gift. Yet there are people secure in themselves who can use all their tools, men unafraid to be gentle, forthright women. Perhaps only those of us who least fit the stereotypes cling so desperately to them.

Mohammed is said to have written, Women are not created weaker but more generous than men. They are created more beautiful and less fierce, as beauty hates to hurt and harm others. That is why they seem weak to people, but in reality they are not. Angels are the strongest of created beings, and women are closer to the angelic nature than men, as they are readier than men to carry angelic light. It is the good manners and ethics of spirituality which they carry which makes them less forceful than men. If he had said “feminine people” and “masculine people” he might have been closer to the truth.

Lauren Jeska

Lauren Jeska, British champion fell-runner in 2015, had gender reassignment surgery in 2000. She had not provided relevant samples to demonstrate her testosterone levels to the sport’s governing body, so her race results were declared void in September 2015. On 22 March 2016, she drove for two hours to the offices of UK Athletics, and asked to see Ralph Knibbs, head of human resources and welfare. She stabbed him repeatedly, causing a 2cm wound to his neck. Prompt first aid saved his life, but he has permanent partial sight loss.

Amid the unanswered questions- how could her testosterone exceed female levels without testicles? Was she dosing, or just upset at the demand to provide samples?- I fear how the haters will respond. This is trans violence. Jeska is a threat to women in prison and should be in a men’s prison.

She has been jailed for 18 years. Previously, she was in a secure mental hospital. She will be on Restricted status, with the most violent women- the only non-violent offences considered for that status are supply of class A drugs, or offences under the Official Secrets Act. She has been extremely physically fit, but so long after castration does not have the physical strength advantages of testosterone.

The heart of prejudice is judging people by a characteristic we happen to share with an offender. What she did is monstrous- and I am not dangerous, and no other trans woman should be judged for what Lauren Jeska did.

All that said-

I remember a trans woman I represented at the Employment Tribunal. She had had a hyper-manly job, then transitioned, and got a job in a cliché feminine role. She was sacked from that job, and convinced me that the wrong she was accused of could not have happened as the manager found it to happen. So she had not done it. I argued that were she cis, the manager would not have found something impossible to be true. The tribunal did not address that point, but found after three days’ oral evidence, my longest hearing, that a cis woman would have been sacked for the same offence, so there was no discrimination.

She had come in to my office, traumatised. She had prepared a very detailed statement of claim to the tribunal, and I took a long statement, but she would ask to see me then go over and over, with monotonously resentful affect, how badly she had been treated. Once I sat, not writing, not looking at her, as she ruminated in this way; I timed her on the phone, and she spoke without pause for ten minutes.

We suffer huge pressure pretending to be male, and we can suffer trauma after transition.

I am glad Lauren Jeska’s parents appear to be standing by their daughter. In a statement they said the stress and confusion of the dispute with UK Athletics had triggered a mental health crisis. I cannot excuse her, but I have sympathy for her.

Report in The Guardian.

Disrupting the Quaker meeting

Lack of trust disrupts Quaker worship.

Meetings are not agreeable events, when we hide from the world into a nice period of quietness. They are meetings with something…encounters….times of vulnerabilities…events of the soul….times when we discover our common humanity, wrote Harvey Gillman on facebook.

It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. You should not attend the Quaker meeting unless you are willing to be profoundly changed by it. We become relaxed, alert, aware together. We wait for God. We may receive a message from the Spirit for ourself or the Meeting, and may be moved to speak it in words which seem unlike our usual ways of speaking.

Surroundings help. We can meet anywhere. My meeting is close to the war memorial, and so every November we hear bugles, drums, and even amplified speech. We anticipate this. I have worshipped outside, with the beauty of trees and plants, with personnel from the US military base (called by a legal fiction an “RAF” base) calling derisively “Praise the LORD!” We know we will face this challenge, so may enter the silence. But in a meeting house, it is better that the place is clean and beautiful, without too much noise from outside.

Some people find knitting helps them still their minds for contemplation. Others find someone knitting distracts them. How you describe this affects how you react: she should be sitting still, in contemplation, not spending time knitting; or, with her mental health issues she finds knitting calming, so that she is less distracted. When I practised the piano a lot, I could read a book while playing scales. You might think you know the rules- No knitting! Approaching with openness and willingness to listen makes resolution easier.

When I was on the cusp between enquirer and attender, I went to another meeting where a man read out, Bear witness to the humanity of all people, including those who break society’s conventions or its laws. Just transitioning, that was me. I burst into tears. I was obviously moved by the Ministry, which spoke to me, and people welcome that. Yet I have cried quietly in meeting, and this was experienced as disruptive. At that time, there were tensions in the Meeting which we were not dealing with, and anything I had done might be disruptive. They felt I had let them down by my needy behaviour, and I felt they had let me down by not recognising my Friend’s need.

I like to go to other meetings, and in one I found a woman with a broad smile handing out pieces of plasticene. I had not known that day was their All-age worship. She explained what to do with the plasticene, and I can see that moulding it might help the unconscious to communicate to the conscious, non-verbally, and so be a way in to understanding Quaker worship; but it was not what I wanted, and people showing off their models was not the ministry I desired. I had felt Quaker worship would enfold me, and was disappointed.

I expected cosy reassurance. That is not on offer. Reality is on offer. We are not separated from the “Real world”. Cosy expectations might be disrupted by the spirit, disrupted in a good way, and sometimes the disruption is too great for the worshipper to process it; rather than nudging me forward, it pushes me back. I need to be outside my comfort zone, but being too far out makes me rush back to the core of comfort.

I have expressed anger in the Meeting, and that was experienced as disruptive. I would like space for anger. Anger is sad’s bodyguard. Sadness is more acceptable if it may be comforted: bottomless, unquenchable sadness is frightening. And when I had attended for a time, a man came in to our Meeting and preached at us from his conservative Evangelical understanding of the Bible. I interrupted him, expressed distress and dashed out. Two Friends followed me, sat close to me and held my hands as I ranted my distress, and I was calmed.

It is better to be able to calm myself, not to ask from a meeting more than it can give. Everyone can be needy. Meeting is not perfect. Getting to know each other, building our community, our trust and acceptance of each other, helps us to meet each other’s needs.

Trans ideology

So many stories! I have the brain/spirit/soul/heart of a woman, I am really a woman, provoking research into psychology and brain physiology, and legal or social responses. I don’t care whether it is true or not, but how it liberates or constrains us. Does it permit you to do what you want to do? Does it prevent you? How does it affect others’ resentment or tolerance of you?

It would be lovely to be able to say, with scientific precision, “I am a woman”, because that would make everything simple. Of course transition would be right, and I would be allowed in women’s spaces. Of course society and the law would treat me as a woman, and anyone who dissented would be clearly wrong. I can’t do that because it is not so. The concept of “woman” is not so clearly divided from that of “man” as the transphobes would think, but useful scientific definitions relating to reproduction call me clearly a man. What I am left with is a social or cultural concept, so I say “I am a woman” according to the modern English definition of the word, which includes trans women. This liberates me to transition, and to argue that others should accept me, but that is a circular argument- I am a woman, because people call me a woman.

If a transphobe argues that I am not a woman because I have a Y chromosome and any scientific wiggle-room about intersex people does not apply to me, the question is Why. It could be because they want to enforce Complementarian “biblical” gender roles, or because they want to direct feminist energy against me, calling me part of the Patriarchal Oppression of Women.

If you are deciding whether to transition or not, this is good and bad news. The bad news is that you will never be able to state with complete certainty that you are a woman, and therefore must transition. You have to find what you feel. What do you want? Will transition make you happy? The good news is that if you really want to transition, nothing should stop you. If you want to transition, you are trans. No-one can tell you not to transition because you are not trans. There are unscientific, cultural stories around arguing that you are not, such as “Autogynephilia”, but do not worry. It is a myth. “Female embodiment fantasies” explains the phenomenon far better.

It also widens your options. No, you are not objectively, scientifically a “woman” but you have particular characteristics, desires and needs which make you desire transition. Are there alternatives which might make you happy with less effort?

It means that you will never convince the transphobes. You cannot point to objective scientific evidence that you should be able to use women’s changing rooms. However, the people who really care and want to stop you are a small minority. Most people don’t see what the fuss is about, and so those who do care are desperate to convince them. But the more they exaggerate the threat of trans women in women’s loos, the more reasonable people they drive away.

Explaining ourselves

We got to the villa, large and well-appointed, which we got cheaply because of being slightly before the season. The owner welcomed us, and showed us round. He introduced us to the three big dogs- as we walked through the town later to the café, there was a dogs’ chorus. Be friends with your burglar alarm: he wanted them to get to know our smell. “If you have any questions, please do ask,” he says, but we have no questions for him. Really, we want him to leave.  His parents in law are the next house, overlooking the garden. His English seems excellent, with little foreign accent.

We are shy. We do not want to explain ourselves. “They are shy of you, because they have Asperger’s Syndrome,” I could have said. I am shy, because I am Trans. We can pass as normal if we interact as little as possible. Why on Earth would we want to pass? Because explaining does not necessarily make others friendly- they might be put off by our odd manner, but might be mocking or hostile if they knew what we really are. Or even exploit us! And- I am worthwhile to know, but not trusting. I want you to spot that, imagine I might have good reason for it, and work to gain my trust!

Self-hatred is very useful for being able to pass. I have no right to be as I am, and the hostility of others is only to be expected. Or, you despise them, you put on an act for others. The main cause is fear. We pass because we fear you.

One of us ate something which disagreed with him, and as soon as we got home he was copiously sick in the gutter. There is a hose in the car port, and I hosed it down the drain. Later, the father in law came over. “We wondered if you are all alright? We saw he was sick in the gutter.” This could be friendly concern, and I experienced it as checking up on us. What are they doing wrong? Make them stop. Even, punish us in some way. We just want him to go away. No, no, we’re absolutely fine, there is no problem at all, and we say this not meeting his eyes, looking shifty. I fear, loathing the thought, that I come over as submissive.

I did think, later, of going over and asking for help, taking both at their word, getting to know them a bit, letting down my guard, approaching directly not circumspectly. Are there any tourist attractions for our friend, who has huge difficulty with stairs? I am a human being. Every human being has idiosyncrasies. I should not be judged for mine.

There is a large pile of wood, and a fireplace between the living room and my bedroom, with glass doors to each. I get a fire going easily- just call me the Pyromage! It has a strong draw, but we have more difficulty getting heat out of it rather than going up the chimney.

The kitchen is lovely. Twice we had sausage and mash, and twice we had pizzas. The trouble with passing, of living in fear of and at war with the world, is that you have less energy to explore how the world’s beauties and gifts may delight you, or to make it delight you, for you do not realise you deserve that.