Being stuck

Sally apologises for the room, because it has toys in it. I find them fascinating. There’s a yard long cuddly crocodile, with soft-fabric nostrils that will take more than a phalanx of my finger. Who could resist picking the nose of a cuddly toy? Not me, I am afraid. I can imagine it alive, and then ignore it; I notice it’s on its back over my knee, which might break its spine and be terrible treatment, then I tickle its tummy and imagine it curling its head up to make eye contact, enjoying the attention. I put it down, as the contact is not real, and keep picking it up again. A dog would be too much responsibility. But it’s a killing machine, able to spring at tremendous speed and acceleration over a distance of a few yards, able to hide under water as it approaches its prey.

There’s also a garage, a dolls house and a police station. I notice the Black doll, like a bigger lego figure, which is frumpy with an uncool hairstyle. I am suspicious, but the white doll is frumpy too, and having Black is a more accurate picture of society. Where there is the possibility of discrimination, we should be careful. There’s a police station with a helicopter pad on the roof and, amazingly, a legolike figure with a rifle. That is more shocking than toy soldiers because soldiers fight wars far away, and this police officer is in the community- and because I am used to toy soldiers. Or toy soldiers express wrath and action, and a police marksman is clinical.

I am in not-quite-sardonic mode, flatness of affect concealing terror and misery in a way a psychotherapist called my powerful defence mechanism twenty years ago. I am going round in circles. Now I am aware that I am doing it, and it is indeed a good defence mechanism, better than bursting into tears. So it felt at the time that I was completely stuck, and looking back trying to find something positive in the experience I say I am aware of it. And, underneath it, the terror.

I am treating my life as an intellectual problem- how to change myself, how to fit in, how to be- when there is no intellectual solution. I want attention, and I want to hide away. My distress is like an overexposed photograph: as it is all overwhelming, I cannot work on either the easiest or the most pressing matters as I cannot distinguish them. My feelings overwhelm me whether I suppress or acknowledge them. And all of this I wrestled with years ago, and am still stuck in it. Though I can articulate the issues more easily.

I like to feel useful, and I like small discrete tasks which produce this sensation instantaneously. So, not a long term project, but, say, putting the shelf right last week. It’s my judgment, and it appears objective to me, though I think to myself that no-one else would think it important at all. Just like smoothing out a ruck in a rug with a counsellor twenty years ago, which pleased me intensely. All this seems to fit early childhood patterns. This counselling is useless. I don’t know what else to try.

It’s not my fault and I don’t know what to do about it and I am the one who must. This counselling service appears completely useless to me. Watching a film on telly I hear the line You embrace the suck, you move the fuck forward stated by a man who had his legs blown off, and I write it down earnestly. Half way through this article I see the heading 9 ways childhood emotional neglect harms highly sensitive people and I think, oh fuck off, tell me what I can do about it! This one is better.

I have been sharing pictures by Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson, and now find Anne was a man.

Anger, pain, and Ministry

The Spirit speaks in meeting through human beings, and our individuality affects the message like the wood or metal of a flute or trombone affects music. It is a paradox: self-abnegation of the petty self or ego, self-actualisation of the true self created in the image of God. I am most fully myself when giving true ministry.

The self I have found in Meeting is filled with paradoxes. I feared meditation, because I fear I will encounter my pain, and when I brought myself to it I felt the pain fully and it did not matter. Possibly it is that life is painful. I am always confused, always wanting, and acceptance is a constant discipline not a single act. And my harsh judgment of myself makes a setback into a failure, a mistake into proof of idiocy, and my sensitivity heightens my own pain, and I have habitually suppressed my pain in order to function, and sometimes it just bursts out of me. I feel, strongly; I try to suppress; so when I start to weep it is the way my pain communicates to my conscious self that it is so strong. If I accepted it I might hold it within.

Anger and pain are close. Anger is sad’s bodyguard, I read on facebook: but pain, expressed, seeks help, and anger demands a solution, often a particular solution, immediately. Yet anger can be an expression of pain, where the pain is too great and confusing, and it bursts out, and is a more acceptable response from a man, inculcated into us in childhood. Big boys don’t cry. Though in competitive situations, nor should women.

What of Quakers? I feel it is incumbent on us to process our pain and anger before speaking them in Meeting. Sometimes, I just can’t. I think it better to express pain in Meeting than to suppress it, where our conflicts are brushed under the carpet, but both are failures of the Quaker process.

That suppression. I realised that I feared my anger, pain and fear, and in fear tried to suppress them. But that gives energy to the feeling. I suppress, and it seeks to burst out, and it becomes more unbearable, more painful. And now I fear my feelings less. My journey over the last two years in Quaker meeting has been towards openness and acceptance. It is hard to explain, and I am not sure I understand it. I found in Meeting in Wellingborough I would, several times each meeting, withdraw into myself. I would cross my arms and legs and curl myself up as small as possible, head bowed, just self-protecting, against- I don’t know what, the world and my experience, or the pain I felt because of it. All of that, I think. And then, I would open out again. I would be open to feeling and sensation, and even perhaps being moved by the Spirit. My feelings would be too much, I would curl up and self-protect, and then the feeling would pass and I would open again.

Over the last year, I felt no need to curl up in this way. Instead, I would feel the pain. I was more or less silent in the silent meeting. I would gasp, or sigh, or start to rock. I have noticed others’ hands tense slightly, clasped in their lap, and my whole body would go rigid. I conceived of it as a discipline, bringing myself closer to acceptance and clear perception of my world. I felt it was a process of healing. I was growing stronger. That curling up was a trauma-response, and I needed the trauma response less. Then, before the 6th January business meeting I was sitting in the corner looking at Heather two yards away, and I found myself curling up again.

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I was enraged at Heather- I don’t think that is too strong a word- because of her article that I had only just seen. It was for a hard-right website, funded by the Koch brothers, who are American oil billionaires who give vast amounts of money to hard-right causes. It is ludicrous. She complained that trans rights restrict free speech, but lots of platforms will say Trans is Bad- the Times, the Daily Mail, Standpoint, the Spectator, the Guardian, to name a few. I agree with Julie Bindel, to whom Heather once offered to introduce me, that feminists should not associate with the hard-right. I agree with the hard-right calculation, that making life more difficult for trans people will not result in people being openly gender non-conforming without transition, but rather in gender stereotypes being more oppressive and more enforced.

I emailed that website, copy to Heather, complaining that her statement ‘trans women’ (as opposed to transsexuals) have penises was false. Many transsexuals have a penis, as they have not yet had the operation. Most of us self-identify as trans women, even post-op, objecting to the use of “transsexual” as a noun. Much of the scaremongering about trans people is around penises. Having a penis does not make a trans woman or a trans girl a threat. Heather responded by emailing to say our friendship was at an end.

I first met Heather four years ago when I saw her across a crowded Meeting room. I thought, Wow. We have gone out for a drink together fairly regularly since, and I have made periodic declarations of love which have been kindly rebuffed. In the autumn I had thought that I would not invite her again. Her campaigning against trans rights, and my disagreement with her, had come between us.

In the meeting for worship before business meeting I was thinking of what can be said in a meeting, in love. When gender came up in the business meeting, following up on Heather’s recognised Concern, I was expostulating. This is who I am. The elder wanted me to sit down. The clerk wanted to hear what I had to say. His minute said, “We have heard-” clerkly code for one person said, when it is not that which we unite behind.

I have not processed my hurt. It is an open wound. I wanted the operation more than anything else in the world, and now I regret it. Two women have said to me, this bluntly, “I could find a man like you attractive, but- no penis!” So fearmongering about penises really gets to me.

My anger deserves your sympathy. Trans women are almost all completely harmless, often quite badly hurt. There is a campaign to drive us out of the women’s spaces where we have been for decades, without harming anyone, on the pretext of gender recognition reform. Gender recognition reform will mean no more trans women in women’s spaces any more than a change to blue passports will mean more foreign travel. The campaign fearmongers, pretending we are dangerous. Of course I am angry.

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I came to Quakers in April 2001, and joined in February 2002. I am afraid I have always been the Needy Friend. I am trans. I had a difficult childhood. I had a difficult time at work, and have been unemployed since March 2011. My confidence is very low, and my ability to accept who I am and how the world is is limited. I like to think I am healing, making spiritual progress, but sometimes it seems I am just going round in circles. I am isolated, and the Labour Party and the Quaker meeting are my only social outlet, apart from things like facebook.

Quakers are nice people, and like to help. In Central Manchester meeting once, shortly after I started going there, an Evangelical came in and took advantage of the ability to stand and speak into our silence to preach a long sermon about Biblical inerrancy or suchlike Evangelical stuff. I interrupted, got upset, and went out to the library with two people holding me as I raged and wept. Someone who listens to my woes gains something from the encounter, a feeling of having done something worthwhile. That places obligations on the needy person, me, not to exploit the good will of my Friends.

Clare, who supported me in Manchester, saw my transition male to female from a year before changing my name formally to a year after, and said “You have climbed a mountain”. I had. Transition is hard to do. Her Testimony, and her husband’s, came out last year. She gave me a lot of support.

I came to Wellingborough meeting again terribly hurt. Well, I am sensitive. L. again gave me a great deal of support, with weekly piano duet sessions for months. I am proud of what I achieved as AM clerk, giving space for the Spirit to move us- I was contributing too- but I took a lot of support. There were tensions in the meeting, such as, there was one regularly-worshipping member with whom I only had one conversation. I approached her in my capacity as member of AM nominations committee, and got no farther than saying “Would you consider” before she said “NO!” A small meeting should be closer than that.

I demanded more support than the meeting could well give, especially after someone moved to the South-west. L. organised my 50th birthday celebration. I saw her outside meeting often. Twice during Meeting (with a year interval between them) I stood and shared my desolate misery, swearing at the horror of it. Too much. I sensitised people to myself. You can’t centre down easily if you are worrying what Abigail will do next. I was told to leave Wellingborough meeting after a man who used the homelessness service came into the meeting house just before coffee, and became abusive and physically threatening when I asked him to leave. I was not going to back down. It is a tragedy that the meeting could give no more support at the moment that I was most entitled to it. I could not get beyond that for over a year- I would have been entitled to support in that moment, but for the history leading up to it.

So I went to Kettering. I am not the only vulnerable, fragile or hurt individual in any meeting, and all of us are vulnerable in particular ways. I am better able to hold my own hurt now, but not perhaps when the meeting considers Heather has a properly Quaker “concern” about “freedom of speech” rather than being the dupe and tool of right-wingers, and for the “care of children”, though that means denying them the care they seek, and denying that they can know themselves. Generally, trans people know who we are and what we want. Some revert, but generally we are happier and more centred when we can express our true selves, and often that means hormones and surgery, however much that surgery may revolt some people.

I went to the Inclusion weekend at Woodbrooke, and after I was shouting angrily at Heather during the Sunday morning worship I have been told not to attend meeting in my Area. My heart sank a week before when I learned she was going. In worship, she stood and rather than giving ministry stated she was an expert. She stated, falsely, that gender recognition reform, “self-ID”, will affect women’s rights, and that there is no biological basis for trans, which is irrelevant, as trans people exist. I stood to say worship had ended at the point she stood up, but I was angry.

I am writing this because one wise and well-regarded Friend told me he is “appalled at the injustice” of me being excluded. It is not quite that simple. Another said he “pray[s] love and truth will prevail”, at which I thought, well, that would be me completely screwed. (Joking.) I think love and truth will; and it may take some time.

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I have also been told not to represent the AM, which may also be a good thing. I love prolonged periods with Quakers. Possibly they get me over-excited, like a child on a sugar rush. I have not mastered Quakerly reserve, yet I dare to hope I contribute. Sometimes, if I try to assess intellectually, or when my words come particularly close to my own vulnerabilities, I doubt the value of what I say, but I feel I get it right most of the time. I liked what I said at YM, and mention Deborah Rowlands hugging me as I left more to convince myself that it had value than to convince you. I have been twice to the Quaker Life Rep Council, and think I contributed there, too, though too many of us stood in the final Meeting for Worship.

If ministry speaks to people it will have an effect, and if not it will be forgotten, unless it is spectacularly bad, sufficient to disrupt worship. I speak from my heart, from my love, my creativity and my desire for good, apart from those two times in Wellingborough when I spoke from my misery and negativity and disrupted worship. Yet I think “Where I am at the moment” ministry, if not overdone, helps bring a meeting together, to know each other in the things that are eternal and the things that are quotidian. One that has been much on my mind since it was given in July was Heather’s. As I remember it she spoke of how as a child she had wanted to be confirmed into the Church of England, and had gone to confirmation classes. In part she wanted the white first communion dress.  She was not confirmed, because her commitment to truth prevented her from believing some of the things that church demanded she believe. And now she felt she may be forced out of the Society of Friends, because of her commitment to Truth. My heart went out to her, even though I knew what she thought of as the falsehood driving her out was the Society’s acceptance of trans people and our transitions.

I may have made this impossible, but I would still like to be part of a Quaker decision making process on trans and gender issues. I see people in favour of trans rights in the society, and people with a strongly gender-critical view (they call the term “trans-excluding radical feminist” a slur) and it seems to me that the pain of the gender non-conforming or gender critical, and the gender dysphoria of the trans people, is the same pain at gender stereotypes blocking us from being ourselves. So Quakers should actively oppose gender stereotypes as part of our testimony to Equality, and help us see each others’ pain. The tragedy is that we are in conflict, as if others’ way of subverting the stereotypes somehow invalidates our own. If only we could see, we would be on the same side.

I am forbidden to attend Quaker meetings at the moment, yet I hope the video designed to make us attractive to enquirers, and featuring me, will remain on the website. I was not sure the outreach leaflets should all feature the same four people, because I thought I was quite weak on Quaker work, but I stand by what I wrote:

My work in the world, my witness to others, is learning to know and accept myself as God made me, moving from suppressing my feelings to owning them… I know the truth is setting me free.

So I will carry on with that, and perhaps be readmitted at some point. Coming across this Karl Barth quote this week seems a synchronicity- It is not that you have been called to bear the suffering of the present time, it is that you have been idiots. Yet contrary to some evidence I feel that this organism, this creature, conscious and unconscious, soul and body, has value. I am a Quaker; and at the moment I have irked too many people.

If you have got this far: this is what I want of Quakers. Gender stereotypes do not fit people. They are an engine of oppression. Therefore the Quaker testimony to Equality should lead us to oppose the stereotypes, and search out what in ourselves seeks to enforce them on others. And we should trust and support each person to oppose those stereotypes and deal with them in their own way, including by transition.

Using feelings

I was in a constricted grey corridor, with regular doors off it. I tried a door, and found overwhelming light and colour, so much that I could not make sense of it, so stayed in the corridor- but as I remained, the corridor grew darker and more constricting.

I thought the vision was about my retreat from the world, and now see it as my retreat from myself. I will not feel my feelings, they are too overwhelming. So I am stuck in the corridor, more and more constricted.

I have suffered so much pain and loss and rejection that I live in it. All that thwarted desire, all the bewilderment and lack of understanding, and always the critical voices berating me for failure. I need to see the detail in that overwhelming colour and light of my feelings, and that means paying attention to them as I pay attention to an art work, sitting with it, seeing it, noticing it.

What do I want, now?
What is possible, now?
What might I do, now?
What do I feel about that?

So many doors closed!

Richard Rohr today posted that Christ is, for each of us, our deepest and best and most naked self, and how could I believe that? I want ridiculous things, do not want what I ought to want, and as the Anglicans put it there is no health in me. And I flail about uselessly, and then give up.

Rohr shares a painting by Tintoretto of the Crucifixion, where we see Christ tortured and distorted, bearing the pain of our sin, as my soul bears the pain of my denial of it.

And the Tintoretto crucifixion which I found first shows a different Christ, Christ as the light of the world, shining from the cross.

Around him there is the tumult of the World, and for a moment it pauses, as people see the light of Christ.

The way to my true self which may or may not have any value but is at least me is through the feelings I have suppressed or distorted. There comes a time to lay down my past, which I see as mistakes, wrongdoing, stupidity, failure, and see what is around me, now. What is possible, now. Not a lot, perhaps, but not nothing at all.

A low place

I just don’t know how it’s got this bad. I am bamboozled.

The analogy of a single cell came to mind. Chemical reactions on its membrane can show it that one direction is more conducive to its flourishing than the opposite direction, and it has cilia which can move it in that direction, though they will not save it from being swallowed as by-catch when a fish eats another. I feel my cilia are just waving me randomly, or the wrong way.

How are you? she said. I demonstrate physically: I curl up in a foetal position, then straighten out and lie flat. I am traumatised. I am exhausted. I hide behind the chair, scared. I then ask to open the blinds. It is a beautiful sunny day, and outside the window the tree has many leaf-buds developing. Beauty matters. I doubt I can be seen from outside, the window is just slightly too high.

No matter how I express myself here, part of me is monitoring, aware, making sure all is alright. I say that as I spread a tissue on a cushion, as I would not want spittle on it, then scream at it.

I pick up a colourful tangle from the shelves. I had not seen one before. It is designed for fidgeting, to help with smokers’ cravings, ADHD or other conditions. I open it out then curl it up as small as it will go. I am, here, investigating: not merely in a funk.

I look up at the shelf, and see the grooves in it do not match the pegs on which it sits. Ah, that’s what is wrong: I take the picture off the shelf, and turn the shelf round. I put the picture back. This pleases me. I have accomplished something very slightly worthwhile, made my world slightly more ordered. It is genuinely better, if only slightly. I like things Right, not Messy. I feel pleasure in it.

God, this is a weird thing to do. I go to a room with a stranger, tell her my misery and start to cry. I want answers, but have none, just anger and misery at the dullness of my existence. Well, I might as well come here, it gets me out of the house.

I want not to impinge.

Thinking of trans people. Those trans men who say transition helped them discover their feminine side- transition appears obviously wrong for them, but they seem satisfied. There is a battle for our rights on. I said I felt driven forward, and a trans woman told me she checked every step, hormones, transition at work, operation, was right for her, and friends told her without prompting how feminine she was. I’ve been reading about Why is Suffering? and What is God? and am no wiser.

I don’t know what I am doing wrong. It is not just luck. I must have done a great number of things wrong for things to be this bad. And I just don’t get it. I don’t get how it’s got this bad.

it’s not fair!

Well, thinking that is not always completely useless.

Solitude

You are never alone with the internet, which is a problem: always being tempted to check Likes and Stats- eight page views in the last half hour! Ten upvotes for that Guardian comment!- creates a brain fog, distancing me from my feelings in a nutrition-free series of tiny pings of excitement. I am not alone with a book, or the TV. I had hoped “Cleaning Up” would be gentle escapism, the cleaning ladies getting one up on the wealthy, but it is far more subtle, even realistic: actions have consequences, there is both good and bad luck, and there is a slow, doubtful path to redemption for the hero, though she lies to herself and others, acts to make herself happy or safe in the moment whatever the consequences in two hours’ time, and is drowning in debt. Her daughters love her. But I even face that with half an eye on my laptop, and those facebook likes.

Possibly in some circumstances an Anglican church should be a “safe space”- in the East End during the Blitz, for example, giving some community reassurance in the horror. I don’t think a Quaker meeting should be. We encounter God there. But if mine has to be made safe, I may confront reality better meditating in my own flat, or in a walking meditation. I took the camera not to create beautiful images, but to record sensation. I wanted to create pictures of what caught my eye, not to package and curate a celebration or an imaginary ideal.

Though who am I to suggest the natural process of rusting, or the scaffolding of my civilisation, is not beautiful?

The photo does not show how steep the path is. I am constantly afraid of slipping and landing in the mud. And in the field, there was the sensation of soft divots thrown against my lower calves, and again the fear of slipping. And tension in the tendons at my knees. The intention is to observe what is around me, and how my body is, and for practise to develop awareness of my situation and feelings.

Because of the mud, suddenly the bush looms up, loaded with leaf-buds.

Ice on the river, though the air is above freezing. The one photo I actually wanted was from my last walk here, a coot walking on ice in the sunshine. I will see if I can take something like that. So I am not just in the moment: I am planning, and blogging, as I walk.

The river is half-visible above the thicket.

Despite the stern warning, this gate is no longer locked.

Geese on the water. I cannot create a record of my clearest impression, of a goose sliding down that bank into the river. I would need to set up the camera and wait for such a thing.

Even though there are still some on the bank.

The wet patches on the bridge are also slippery.

I did not intend to record the dog leaving a scent-mark, but that was the luck of it. My original picture did not show that the woman wore her right glove, but not her left, for the handholding.

I am not a nice person, I think, and I am where I am. This week I will meet my support worker, who is paid to get me into work (!) and the counsellor she has arranged. And I will exchange a few words at checkouts. I have stumbled into solitude, which I muddy with that obsessive checking of stats, and want to take the opportunity it brings. My boots heels hit the path with small shocks. Walking faster than others, I am slightly hot in an open coat, a thin shirt and no scarf.

That grass, taller than me, is striking.

I had not seen this inscription before. Now, writing, Google tells me it is from The Windhover by Hopkins, and that “sillion” is fresh soil upturned by a plough. Everywhere, evidence of human love!

That twig in the sun. A girl points her pink camera over ice, in the sun, with her parents on either side, encouraging, and her brother slightly ahead, on a scooter.

That I might have taken if I were curating a sales-pitch image of this place, or something for my managed image on facebook. I love the way the park is continually improved with art works.

This is the only one I have cropped. I have not adjusted the colour or light on any. That was the best view I could get of a bird walking on ice.

And the bottle catches my attention.

What of feelings? There was not much litter, the weather was beautiful, and I feel- not sure. Some fear and anger possibly. I have created my aloneness (which is different from solitude). “Self-Pity!” shout the Guards, aka the Inner Critic. They always speak up for my good, and I feel I might benefit if I could retrain them.

I know what would be good for me. Less screen, more meditation, possibly even action and encounter. I don’t know if I will manage it.

What I want VII

I want to go out into the world again, from my current state of withdrawal. This terrifies me. I want to be useful.

Then stating what I want gets more difficult. I want not to be noticed. I want to hide. And that has involved suppressing who I am, trying to find and follow rules. It’s difficult because I fear a reaction of incomprehension and disdain for what I say. My working theory is that my personality has been suppressed, and now I want to let it out.

I want to do teenage. Don’t worry too much. You may not even notice. But if you do notice, if it becomes incredibly obvious, I want you to value that. I want to be valued, and really it is for me to value myself; but I find that difficult, and would like help.

These desires are incompatible: I want to Be Myself. Then something happens, and in terror I want to hide.

Write what you want, she said. God this is difficult. A job interviewer gave me feedback that on the standard question of how do you work in a team I only talked of what I could give to it, not what others could do for me.

I want to be valued. I would like help with that. I judge myself harshly, and live in a state of fear, which I cannot bear any more.

I want connection. And, I want- not to be any trouble! Please don’t send me away!

What I want for myself is to find myself in an office environment doing something which might be valued. I can type and file. I can keep confidentiality.

I want to do something which is sufficiently valuable to retain a volunteer, while learning how to be myself in society, rather than trying to suppress or deny myself. I so lack trust in myself that I fear these desires are incompatible. Asked to write what I want, I mull over missing out the bit about self-expression, as if it is enough to make anyone refuse to go near me.

Yet what I want is, self-expression, more than anything else. I never managed to hide myself, not really, when out in the world. I acted according to my character and personality. I just managed to deny it to myself. And I don’t manage to make myself different now, just to suppress my reactions.

The Real Self and the Critical Voices II

Cycling would be lovely if it weren’t for the cars. I have been writing verse in my head, coming over. It needs work, particularly changing the first few lines from only being sexual insults, but it has promise:

You’re a s–t
You’re a death-wish driver
You’re a t-t
You’re a one-hand swiver
I would be quite chilled
if your death you willed, not mine
But you place a stranger in mortal danger
you filthy swine

Overtak
-ing should not cause danger
why not brake?
Can I make it plainer…

Last couplet needs done too. I have the rhyme, there is some wit…

There’s anger there. I go into my rational mode. At the CAB we had a trickle of people who came in the day before they were due to be evicted by bailiffs, their furniture placed on the pavement, the locks changed. It wasn’t my problem and I never did get to the bottom of anything they could do in theory, but I remember the volunteers’ distress and wish to rescue them. I am almost certainly going to hit a wall. I don’t see how I can avert that wall. There are rational things I should be doing according to my culture- there are jobs for the taking, if only I will apply, if not pleasant ones. It is up to me.

I find myself deflecting my train of thought. I am thinking of taking notes on my phone and surreptitiously starting the voice recorder, though I have been told the service does not allow it.

My plan, such as it is, is to give my real self a voice. Life does not seem worth living if I cannot consciously be in this part of me which I have called vulnerable bit, real self, inner light, crushed God-

I am taking notes as I go, and I wonder what part of me does the writing.

The critical voices tell me I will make a fool of myself. And- it is me, and I want just to do. Paying attention to what I feel with my fingertips helps get me into the state of Presence which I desire.

I want to push boundaries as far as I can.

I am utterly frightened. I do not know this part I call my Real Self. I cannot predict it- in my imagination, it is merely foolish and ridiculous. It seems OK moment to moment. That teddy bear seems more for looking at than cuddling, so I ask if I can borrow Sally’s scarf. This is pushing a boundary, and she agrees. I want to enjoy its colour and its softness. It has many colours, many tones. It is viscose, so it could be softer, but feels alright.

She passes me her scarf, and I feel anguish. The critical voices are at me again: I am putting it on. I am play acting. Don’t be silly. As I realised before, the internal conflict is far more debilitating than the feeling itself: I could feel the anguish, and it would pass through me, but if I try to suppress it my resistance strengthens it.

I need to be in touch with my own feelings, or I am unable to perceive my world.

Boundaries. I want to push them, but crossing them would be against my own interest. I think of violence.

-Can I rummage through your handbag?
-I think I’d have to refuse that.
-You heard the air quotes even though I did not do the gesture.

Where does the anguish come from? To ask for something, and be given it? From past refusals?

I fear the Real Self because it is weak, overemotional and irrational. I fear my feelings because I fear the consequences of showing them or acting on them. I would act irrationally and so be under threat.

I am conscious of my surroundings. Repeatedly there is a bleep two devices make when connected, followed by the disconnect bleep. It is so expressive: the first ready and hopeful, the second an ending. I am so sensitive to this stuff. There was that DLA client whose brothers had to look after him because he was this sensitive walking down the street, and could not go out alone; but there was something attractive about him, and he had an attractive girlfriend despite his disability. I saw him two or three years later and he looked worn, on some horrible suppressant drug. For me at the time, the sensation of Presence was so rare as to seem a Transfiguration moment, and for him it was sickness. And now I want it.

I want that full sensitivity.

Cycling home in the sunshine, just above freezing, I find my final couplet:

That’s a speeding ton of metal that can kill
Maybe someday you’re this dangerous, it will.

The good trans woman

Why do trans women hate each other?

There am I on facebook, where you must be exceptionally careful to have a pleasant experience. Someone on a trans “support” group asks if anyone has any experience with progesterone. Does it improve breast growth? I say that it gave me too great highs and downers to be manageable. Some self-appointed expert said you should only use natural progesterone, not synthetic. I asked her if she could cite journals as authority, and she said I should do the googling, it was not for her to do my research. Someone else said that we both seemed touchy- are we on progesterone? The silly facebook spat ended with her blocking me, and me announcing my delight in that because I would not need to see her comments any more.

So there.

Arguably what she said crossed a line into medical advice. Why do doctors continue to prescribe synthetic progesterone? Why should I believe her? How could I know what is best for me? And, arguably, she was trying to be helpful, though I feel she was mostly concerned to be seen as the expert, the trans who’s been round the block.

Yes, I really dislike her, after a brief interaction on facebook. I know I am being ridiculous.

In the BBC drama “Mrs Wilson”, after the hugely charismatic author Alexander Wilson dies in 1963, his widow discovers he is still married to his former wife, and then that he had a long-term girlfriend who was hanging around the back of his funeral. All three women have children. They find and confront each other. Wife 2 even forges a decree absolute, though as it is not on the register it is easily refutable. She is horrified to see a typewriter in Wife 1’s front room: Wilson spent time with her.

Each of them has an insight no-one else can have into the feelings of the others. I saw their hate, and willed them to weep on each others’ shoulders. Yet each is also the evidence of their husband’s crime, and of their victimhood and disgrace, and they hate each other, and threaten each other, and make demands trying to retain some shred of respectability at the expense of the others.

So with trans women, perhaps especially those of us long-transitioned. We know what each has been through, we can sympathise more fully with each other than any cis person can. Yet when I see her, I see myself; my failure to pass, my hurt, my vulnerability. All that I cannot accept in myself I hate in her.

I am unsurprised, though more hurt, by one’s insistence that she will defend trans rights when appropriate, and not mine.

I am unsurprised by certain trans women’s alliance with the terfs. We are men, says one. We have autogynephilia, say others. They want validation from the cis, at any price. They try to achieve a fragile respectability at the cost of the rest of us. “No, I’m not like them, the bad trans,” they insist. It does not work, but they are so desperate.

We trans women can see each other, more clearly than anyone else can. We should sympathise with each other. But that requires being truthful with ourselves.

I want you to feel what I feel

I want you to feel what I feel
I want you to see the world as I see the world
This makes me vulnerable

-How are you?
-In Heaven and Hell, I said.
-Yes, it’s like that when you feel so deeply, he said.

Though I have not yet learned to play it
I am an exceptionally sensitive instrument
which will produce beautiful music
when I learn to play it well

I rambled a paragraph, clutching at wisdom, and my friend put it beautifully:
You need to be at one with yourself
before you can be at one with anyone else.

Indeed. I need to check in with my emotional being, my real self, and know where they are before the inner monologue can have great value. That monologue has some value, it is showing me some of what I feel, achieving a small amount towards expressing what I want to express, but a lot of it is repetitive. If I am with myself, the inner monologue is less intrusive and I can see what is around me.

We are made in the image of God
so we are Loving, Creative, Powerful, Beautiful.
I have said this before

Even if they are sources of hurt, they are still gifts

“Plain speech” is speaking without ego.
-I don’t know if that’s possible, he said.
No, and if you thought you were doing it all the time you wouldn’t be;
yet it might be a worthwhile goal, you might sometimes approach it

I need you to value, even authenticate, or justify, my feelings if I cannot accept them myself.
This makes me vulnerable.
I get better at accepting them.
I turned my face from my own pain, and now it is almost too much for me to face

I am still protecting you, though you no longer need my protection.
You twisted me so I could do nothing else- as you had been twisted.
Your fears live in me.

At least, it is easier if we all feel the same.
How pleasant it is to dwell together in unity!
But then, whose feelings would we be feeling?

With Brexit, the fundamental question is whether Governments can make things better or not. Do we need general laws about contracts being fulfilled, batches sold matching samples checked, or specific laws about “abnormally curved” bananas? Can governments work together to prevent climate change and protect human rights? Or does law and government action just get in the way? The Left, arguing that Government can improve things, needs people to hope, and that hope is vulnerable. Yet governmental action is the only hope for human rights or climate change mitigation.

The great lie is the slogan “self-ID”, and the idea that the Government proposes to introduce self-ID, which will mean a flood of men in women’s spaces. Transsexual diagnosis is based on self-ID, the conviction that I am a woman or the long-standing desire I have to be a woman. The Equality Act is based on self-ID, and the trans women are in women’s spaces already. The anti-trans campaigners need to pretend that there is some new threat, or they would be forced to explain why the sky has not already fallen.

There you go. The Truth!

Maybe I should go off line. Some of those places where the people who hate me get together and reassure each other that they’re right can be really horrible when I blunder in. I know it’s not personal, and possibly someone who says awful things there would chat pleasantly enough at the bus stop; I even know my own zingers might offend their targets, who may (apart from one particular completely wrong opinion) be decent enough. The anger on line is bleeding into real life, and I don’t know what to do about it.

And someone replied, It’s often the case that those who constantly seek attention are agents of their own misfortune. How is that relevant?

“Do you love her?” she asked. Not really, not any more, not since last Summer really… Only I can validate myself. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I get past the critical voices.

We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us
The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path
And where we had thought to find an abomination
we shall find a God
and where we had thought to slay another
we shall slay ourselves
and where we had thought to travel outward
we shall come to the centre of our own existence
and where we had thought to be alone
we shall be with all the world
. -Joseph Campbell.

The real self and the critical voices

The risk of imagining a “Real self” separate from the negative self is that I could project onto the negative self all the bits I don’t like. However that would not even convince me, and certainly not a magistrate. The negative self is part of me, within me, a voice, a part of my brain circuitry, part of an organic whole.

My real self has been so suppressed that I have been consciously analysing my desires from outside, rather than feeling them from within. I find what I want when I see what I do. I have desires, and carry them out, but not through conscious planning. The Real Self is where my desire, energy and motivation appear to sit. So I want to make it conscious so that I am less conflicted.

Possibly the Real Self spoke on Sunday, in immediate anger.

I realise, with Sally, that that is what I want to speak about, and that the critical voices immediately tell me I should not. Don’t talk about that, it will not achieve anything. You need this time for more important matters. It’s self-indulgent, which is their strongest word of condemnation. I realise how the critical voices inhibit me from speaking my desire, even here, in the counselling space, though they are not strong enough to change the subject, and eventually the desire gets through.

It’s wallowing, and I do not want her sympathy. I would say how miserable I am and you would say, “Awwww”.

It’s what I want and am terrified of showing that I want.

-That’s the conflict there, she says. Well, yes. The critical voice stops me speaking, and frustrates my desires.

As a child I was so squished that I was unaware of being squished. My mother believed her complete control was for my good. In my early thirties, I realised it was time to rebel against my parents and I have been doing teenage ever since. I feel it was a working out of human organic development and healing- that this phase of maturing can be suppressed, but not prevented indefinitely. The stream can be dammed for so long, but eventually it finds its way.

Mmm. Sunday. I feel wretched about that. Normally I would suppress that wretchedness below consciousness, so that it becomes a weight I keep carrying. I feel if I become conscious of it, I can let it go. Just as when meditating, if I feel an itch, but resent it because now is the time to be pious and holy, meditating- the itch consumes my thoughts, because I am trying to suppress the feeling. If I pay it attention, feel it fully, then it bothers me less and I can move on.

If I feel the feeling fully I can let it go. That’s the hypothesis, not completely demonstrated yet. I worried from my negative self that I am a bottomless pit of pain, I just feel the pain and it is neverending, but I don’t think that, not really. I can work through it.

Now I feel the desire to tell you something that makes me happy, and the critical voices say that is boasting, it is Bad. Well, that video makes me happy. It is always easier to think “This too will pass” when I am happy: I observe that in other people as well as myself. I am happy to have contributed to something which has value. I want it to be seen. I consider I have done a good thing, and that pleases me.

I am unsure about my desires, and I don’t appear to have any particular overarching desire, yet I have-

pause. The critical voices are at me again. They diminish everything my real self says, trivialise its words, take away the words’ meaning and importance. I have desires, and pleasure in accomplishing them, and frustration at not. I am not getting much of that pleasure, and the critical voices inhibit it.

Last time, I had the idea that I had to pack the real self away, be in some other part of me, in order to be sufficiently safe and in control to cycle home. Yet my real self is my own desire, rather than introjected desire, my own feelings conscious not suppressed, my real self is where the power actually is and the distrust which I have internalised for it has not led me to a better way of being.

The critical voices are far too strong, completely dismissing my Real Self. Yet they have their place, they could make a valuable contribution. They have something to do with What will other people think and it is possible to estimate that. They need balanced. My default state at the moment is that the critical voices are suppressing me, but I am coming out.