Catching the intensity

Around 1.45 am, I cycle over the railway bridge. It’s one lane, at the top of a hill, so the car behind can’t pass me, but just over the bridge I am going down a little and it still isn’t passing me. Rather, it pulls up alongside, which is frightening. Then I notice it is a police car. The female passenger says nothing but the male driver says, “If you’re going to be cycling at this time you might consider investing in a crash helmet and a reflective jacket, because the drivers at this time are not always driving well”.

I looked at him and thought, I really do not want this to escalate, so said, “Thank you”. He has nothing to say to that, and drives on. I had LED lights, not technically legal but bright enough, the law has not been adapted from the time of Edison bulbs. Next day I thought, he was irked that I had slowed him up for ten seconds going over the bridge, and so he frightened a lone woman late at night. That just might have been enough to abash him if I’d said it.

When I was being weaned-

this will all come together in the end, I promise you-

my mother made something for me and I sang to her. She thought it delighted me, and was delighted by my reaction. Then she chopped some cooked chicken really small and forced it through a sieve, which must have been very hard work. “And you spat it at me,” she told me. I don’t know whether she told me that story more than once, but she told it to me when I was a child and it made an impression.

She was working very hard to look after me, and my sister who is two years older, and (in the way of babies) doing what one does unaffectedly and unashamedly and responding in the moment I spat it at her. I don’t know why, because I don’t remember the incident, only the story, but something had irked me or I didn’t like it or I wasn’t hungry. What I take from the story is that I flummoxed her when her hard work did not pay off. She was stressed.

However stressed you are, you have your Backlog to deal with. In the Quaker meeting I was thinking of my mother’s distress, and my distress at being burdened with that, and her fear and certainty that we must not be Seen which I took on from her. I felt that distress fully, and held it, bore it, perhaps healed it. Perhaps in part.

You are bold and brave and honest and open

On Friday I went to the Trump demonstration in London, and on Thursday I did not want to go out. I had to go to the Tesco Express a mile away, and also the GP. I have this online system to order repeat prescriptions and appointments, but it had broken down, so I had gone in to the surgery to sort it, that had not worked, and I had to go again. When I eventually went, the receptionist pressed me to accept the solution which had not worked the first time. Had I accepted it, I would have gone away- a win for her- so I had to insist. Right now it appears the something different I insisted on has not worked either. Anyway.

I did not want to go out.

The emotional part of me is completely in control. If the emotional bit does not want to go out I don’t go out, and that manifests as depression and lassitude if I am not properly conscious of it. I used to suppress it and bully it but can’t any more, and I’m not taking cajoling, wheedling, persuading or the false kind of sympathy which says I’ll sympathise if you’ll do exactly what I want you to do- not taking them from myself, from my rational bit. God that’s weird. And real.

It said I didn’t want to go out, and I listened, and I respected it. It’s kind of like marriage guidance. I can’t divorce myself, and I can’t fight myself any more, I have fought myself to a standstill.

I need to hear this traumatised part of me. I said that to the Samaritans, I said it to Tina, and now I am saying it to you and immediately I said it to Tina I went off on a tangent because I could not go deeper. I can hear the emotional part, even speak from it, but not for long. I have to be Rational. I am going off on a tangent now.

A friend phoned me on Saturday night. She is feeling betrayed, and she was so angry with me she had to phone me. Did I have anything to do with That web page? No, I hadn’t. Next day she ministered, a long affecting story, but what I took from it was that she was feeling alienated from Quakers, betrayed, because of our departure from the Truth, and the Truth is important to her. I find her wonderful, brilliant, charismatic, powerful and beautiful.

I want my Love, intellect and creativity to heal your hurt-
the difficulty of it perplexes me
The unknowing of the result frustrates me
I will continue, doing all I can do.
Forgive me my Hunger and intensity!

Trust me to see it emotionally. She tells the truth, to stop vulnerable children and adolescents from being hurt. She wants the truth heard.

If our friendship might die under this strain, I want to give her a gift. I believe the truth is other than as she sees it, and wondered if we had anything we might agree on, and she said we are so far apart we do not even have the same concepts and cannot discuss it. She will keep on fighting for Right as she sees it, I hope she has a small number of Quakers who will back her, and who knows where the Spirit will lead? I wanted her to be Heard, and I don’t know how to accomplish that. And, she may well do what she needs for herself.

I am bigger than our dispute.

In the Quaker meeting, I am dealing with stuff now, and with my backlog of pain- from fifty years ago!

Another wonderful person. She is about twenty years younger than I, so she has wisdom and understanding and a different upbringing and ways of seeing that I want to get in touch with. I need to learn the lessons of the young people.

Tina said, there’s part of you that is very young, and you know it. With K there’s something about me being older but also about being younger in some ways. And I thought, no, it’s about being the less free, conscious, authentic one, but possibly she’s right.

Tina said, you’re still striving to parent yourself, going back to very young childhood, a part of yourself feeling profoundly distressed and disconnected and wanting your parents to be unconditional so you give yourself that now, you are unconditional to your emotional side. “I wasn’t heard, so I will hear me.”

Tina said,

That childishness that has got you into trouble a lot
but it also gives you a tremendous amount in terms of awe and wonder and appreciating beauty
you don’t want to stifle it and you don’t want it to lose its- sense of awe and wonder
It’s quite magnificent

And I changed the subject again. I have to be more adult with the Quakers.

-That’s your frustration with them. They’re supposed to be unconditional.

No, they’re not. They’re human beings. Clare and John Whitehead from Delph, whom I knew when I first joined, parented me quite a lot, inviting me over for dinner regularly then taking me to hear string quartets. I found out at Yearly Meeting that they had died, when I read the Testimonies to the grace of God in their lives. But now, my Quaker meeting do not have the energy to parent me and really should not have to. Not if I can parent myself.

I’ve been parenting myself. I have been sitting in Quaker meeting allowing the full weight of my feeling, allowing myself to be conscious of it, and catching the intensity. I have incredible intensity. I am not comfortable with it, but I am getting to know it better.

My mother messed me up very badly. Her lesson was Never, ever, show the intensity, because she was frightened and hurt and the most important thing was not to be seen. Part of me took that on, and part of me didn’t and has been breaking out and rebelling and causing trouble ever since, and the two will integrate eventually.

I read an elder or overseer, not from my area meeting, complain that s/he had to do so much work with the difficult or needy Friends that s/he did not have the time to get to know the others. In my last meeting someone had to do too much work with this needy Friend, and I am feeling regretful of that, for it broke our friendship. As a needy or difficult Friend it is incumbent on me to do all I can for myself.

I hope I can make a contribution sometimes.

Trans medicine and storytelling

Transition is a process of self-discovery, self acceptance and self-expression. How should society react to that? By celebrating and facilitating it.

Doctors should consider gender dysphoria, the discomfort arising from not fitting the assigned gender. They should treat any underlying psychological conditions, any resultant anxiety and depression, and help the patient consider all options for gender expression. Gender dysphoria- that feeling of extreme discomfort and alienation- exists.

Medicine proceeds, perhaps especially in this case, on stories. Until 1912 doctors did more harm than good to their patients: natural healing processes and placebo accounted for most of the cures. The doctor sees a distressed patient who wants a solution to their problems, which has sufficient scientific rigour to convince them. Once a solution is proposed, other patients are aware of it, and consider whether it might apply to them. A cold can be cured, by waiting, but epilepsy or arthritis can only be managed. Perhaps no-one has good mental health, but most people can function reasonably well.

People have been expressing themselves as the opposite sex for centuries, part time and full time. The chance of getting that accepted by society through medical confirmation was blissful, and scientific stories of brain difference grew up with mythic stories of being a “woman trapped in a man’s body”. Stories grew to counter the narrative, which people share to enjoy a communal sense of disgust against the Other: stories of mutilation and falsehood- yet still we transition.

David Brooks writes of two kinds of stories- myths, from Athens, of solitary heroes overcoming challenges, showing competitive virtues of strength, toughness and prowess; parables, from Jerusalem, of ordinary people together, showing co-operative virtues of charity, faithfulness, forgiveness and commitment. The two cultures are not so rigorously divided, but the point stands. To some feminists those co-operative virtues can seem too much to fit the “feminine” stereotype used by the Patriarchy to hold women down. Then trans women are the enemy, enforcing feminine subjugation. No group of people can exist without co-operative virtues, not a city, company or family. All human beings have co-operative and competitive virtues, and in maturity learn to balance both. More competitive societies, failing to value co-operation, increase stress and depression.

The story of the “true transsexual”, who transitioned gender roles with hormones and surgery, enabled me to accept being myself. I could shed the poisonous male act. But that male act was also a story, about how men should be, not fitting real people in the real world, and the “true transsexual” story was too restrictive, demanding too high a cost. Now we have stories of “non-binary” people, who do not fit either gender stereotype and play between.

Trans men are confronted with the story of the butch lesbian, fearlessly being herself without the need to pretend to be a man. And some women present as butch lesbians, but carry regret and a sense of incompleteness: does that arise because they are really trans, or because men are treated with greater respect than butch lesbians?

The way we present to other people is a story we tell about ourselves to others. We judge others constantly, and try to be seen in particular ways. Do you dress casually, fashionably, stylishly, scruffily? How do you hold yourself? Do you look others in the eye? Jewellery sends signals.

Transition is hard to stop once you start. I went to work presenting male, but went out at the weekend expressing myself female. I found I could do that in straight spaces as well as queer spaces, in the concert hall then the supermarket as well as the gay village, and the male act at work seemed more and more stifling and unbearable. Transition was a story, a solution which took hard work and determination but would complete my liberation. It would take time, but I knew the solution, I was clear about where I was going. How could I resist? The doctors I chose went along with that story. Protests from outside, particularly cries of disgust and derision, only strengthened my resolve- of course, when seeking to realise my true self, there would be carpers and mockers: think the chromatic woodwind “critics” in Strauss, Ein Heldenleben.

After transition, I embarked on a yet more perilous quest, to find who I am, as a human being. From a point of not knowing, I find what motivates me, what repulses me, what gives me joy. I come to trust my humanity, my gifts and qualities, as good in themselves. Why would I be so hard on myself? I am still escaping that oppression.

The story of transition, the person liberating their true self, is not countered by attempts to undermine it. The carpers and critics may attack its scientific rigour, but it retains enough to convince us. It has too much staying power to be blown away. It works. It liberates us, and insofar as more work of liberation remains to be done after, we only see that after completing transition.

A woman told of years with the psychiatrists demanding whether she was sure she wanted a vaginoplasty. Are you sure you will not regret losing your penis? Of course she was. It was not the right question. I want to produce, here on my blog, a more satisfying story which will supersede the other, the difference between solid gold and gilded lead clear to all, and now I am groping. Unknowing has something to do with it, the way the person is crushed into the male box. Who are you, really? What stops you knowing yourself?

Transition works. Give us something better, and we will choose it. Non-binary identity works for people who identify as non-binary. Making transition easier, stopping the carping, might reduce our desperation to prove ourselves. Transition would be less of a big deal. It would be recognised as one way people can be. That would reduce its emotional heat.

Weird London

It is always lovely to go into London. With time to kill, I wandered down south of Euston Road towards the British Museum. First to St Pancras Church, which has two huge sculptures temporarily displayed in the narrow patch of grass between the church and the pavement. One appears to be two men wrestling, with Rodinesque muscly bodies, until you see they share the same head. Inside, the church was dim, like a hall, but has two organs, one against the West wall and one, moveable, near the Sanctuary. There is a notice, do not touch the organ without express permission. In a chapel in the north-east corner, there was a Madonna icon in which the child was off to her left, and low down, and tiny, and seemed odd, but it was the only thing in the church I found beautiful. Some men passed through the chapel, glancing briefly at me. In the nave, a man stood, then ran suddenly a few yards west, then stood again, then ran back. He was still there as I left.

South through the University. I wandered into The English Chapel. It was built by the Catholic Apostolic Church in the neo-Gothic style in 1851-4. I like fan vaulting, but find it pointless- church architecture should have moved on by then. They believed Christ had appointed twelve further apostles, and were a worshipping group until around 1905, when they did not appoint a successor apostle. So now it is a trust owning property, and part of the church, the West chapel, is let out to Forward in Faith for daily services. There are no pews. A man knelt near the west-facing altar. The priest came in from his office and spoke to me, though I said I was half-touristing, half-praying: using the beauty as an aid to contemplation. The stained glass windows, replaced after being destroyed in the Blitz, are lovely. He explained that around the stalls carved into the walls are the heads of English monarchs. One wears a wimple. They were out of fashion when Mary became Queen, and I asked him who she was. Matilda, possibly? He did not know. I spent some time contemplating the carvings, then walked on.

At Friends House I met someone about Outreach, then had lunch downstairs, where I recognised several people. Should I say hello? Someone I know, to my shame, only as “X’s partner” said hello, so I joined her. She has been researching in the Friends House library, and came across a 19th century classification of beauty in three classes: active sublime, passive sublime and “sprightly”. “Your necklace would be ‘sprightly’,” she told me. Well, it is irregular blobs of blue/green glass, so yes. A certain kind of tree is “active sublime”, a certain kind of owl “passive sublime”. Possibly “active” in the kinds of feelings aroused in the beholder. I don’t want to know the classification, it would just be another way I judged myself- I must spend more time with Active Sublime, even if I preferred Sprightly.

A paid worker was kindly eating with a volunteer.

A man talked at me for half an hour about something which stressed him, which was not really why I had wanted to see him, though I had wanted to get to know him a bit. Because I was trying to get a word in, I was much blunter than I would otherwise have been: “Why did I not get an interview for that job?” He gave what would have been an off-the-peg defence to a discrimination claim- because I did not fit a particular essential criterion. Because of discrimination, the selection has to be completely objective and it was, he told me. But, I was not making a claim, just asking.

Signs on the railings said “Please do not smoke in this area or sit on these steps.” Guess what someone was doing. And I saw this sign, which looks official but is a stencil, a graffito stating hope not reality. Those metal gates did not look welcoming. The area is beautiful, but not welcoming.

The beauty of young people

As I grow older, I delight more in the beauty of young men. I am sensitive, and this is a gift for me; I would so love that it was a gift for others as well.

The British Museum has a grand plaza in front of its grand colonnade. Walking through it should be a delight and preparation, anticipating the wonders within. It is mine, a place of beauty and learning, of all the cultures of the Earth over five thousand years, to expand the mind, developing empathy as well as understanding. Even though much of it is plunder, and much of it is Orientalist, and that grandeur is a bit Imperial for me, it is still mine, for the liberals and not for the Authoritarians.

Unfortunately there is a suppurating sore at the south west corner of that plaza, the tent where we have our bags searched. The Tates make do with a desk inside the doorways, where two guards wave their useless wands over the bags, but the BM has a marquee, too permanent-looking for my taste, and we are made to walk down a path between moveable barriers. Other barriers are placed across this path so that we slalom gently as we walk there. It is ridiculous as well as humiliating, everything undignified is. I hated the searches at first, but now thought I was reconciled to it. Yesterday in the Tate I said good morning to the hapless searcher, and my bag was unzipped ready.

Outside the tent hieroglyphs instruct no photography or recording, and inside there is another zig-zag where we shuffle towards the two searchers. It is dim and unpleasant, but I would be glad of it were it raining. There are spaces for more behind a long bench, but only two searchers are on duty this morning. “Next Please!” they shout, commandingly, as soon as their last fellow-victim steps away. Behind me, as I approach them, is a young man whose short hair might be aiming for the Army lieutenant look, though he is a security guard. “Be ready for the bag check! Have your bags open!” he shouts, for all the world as if none of us were tourists.

Is there anything sharp in here? “No,” I lie, and they do not spot my Swiss army knife. No handbag should be without a Swiss army knife. I think I am done, but a woman directs me to the second of four booths at the north end of the tent. In it, a young woman behind a pane of glass or plastic recites a script about how the British Museum depends on donations from the public. She has a slight foreign accent. She could be pretty but instead looks worn down. “No,” I say, shortly, and exit.

That young man was beautiful.

Outside in the plaza I have to take a moment to collect myself. I am ashamed of being rude to the young woman, and ashamed of letting it get to me. I think of Etty Hillesum, feeling compassion for the Nazi behind a desk shouting at her, and wish I had her- control, actually, rather than compassion, I do not like letting it get to me. The authoritarians, having won Brexit, are trampling so much, tearing up our social fabric, but I have been living with this for a year. And they still surprised me, and they still got to me.

We won’t let the terrorists change our way of life, intone the authoritarians, solemnly. Ha.

Inside, I visit the Rodin exhibition. A friendly security guard goes and gets me a stool when I ask him, and I sit in various vantage-points around The Burghers of Calais, which has Rilke quotes about each one displayed on the platform. It is a Mahler symphony of an art work, worth twenty Henry Moores, and with it I forget the security. That man clutching his head- I think he is beside himself, Rilke sees him as taking a moment with his thoughts and feelings away from the surroundings. Rilke affords him dignity. I like that.

Speaking the Truth

I was in touch with my compassion.
I was in touch with my femininity.
I was in touch with my whole self.
I had never felt that way before.
It blew my mind.

That was February 1999, but this is now, speaking on the phone to Lucy:

I was in touch with my femininity, I said. I was in touch with my-

and the word in my head is “compassion” and I cannot say it. I was in touch with my-

it runs through my mind again. I pluck up the courage-

I was in touch with my compassion.

I am Abigail, and I am truthful. Andy Braunston observed in the 90s that I was very hard on myself, and I remain so. I could not say “compassion” because it is claiming a good quality and that is difficult.

And I had a vision of me as a small child asserting something to my implacable mother and being judged for it. My truth and value being rejected so that even now fifty years later I reject it myself, I cannot bring myself to utter it.

Yet I did utter it. It is getting easier. Especially, it is easier with her, I know she will affirm me.

I am Abigail. I am loving and truthful. I have the experience of gathering myself and saying something I know to be Truthful, with my integrity, with my whole being.

“I know you do,” she says. “I’ve seen you do it.”

Expressing myself female gave me permission to be myself with other people rather than attempt the male act. It freed me. I might now regret hormones and surgery, but I do not regret that.

 ♥♥♥

That conversation affected the whole week. I thought before, “The monster will get me”, and of granite statues judging me, and see more what that is. I was frightened of saying “my compassion”. I felt I would be judged for it. I had known that is not an adult assessment of what another individual is like, but a terrified child assessment of the whole world. When I make a claim like that, to compassion or some other good quality, I am a small child with my mother knowing she will deny it, even though I am 52 and she is dead.

I found myself able to talk of my compassion. I named it at Quaker Quest and in the Meeting for Worship the word “compassion” was woven through the ministry. I was in the same state of authenticity, speaking at Quest, and I named it- “I am there now”- though far less frightened, and less mind-blown. It is not familiar, exactly, but more known and trusted. I had thought a lot about what I would say and the stories I would tell, but in the end the words were given to me: “The truth will set you free”.

With H on Friday night, we discussed trans issues and were distanced, but the first glass of wine brought us together and I told her why I could not have spoken of my compassion, and now I could. I was crying again, I am so hurt by this. Awake early on Saturday morning, I phoned The Samaritans and told the man. I took a long time to pluck up the courage, once he had answered. The thought that it would sound ridiculous to him terrified me. After, I said “You heard how big a deal this is for me, didn’t you?” He assented.

This is a big deal for me.
I was in touch with my compassion. It is at the heart of me.
I will remember this, and claim my truth again.

You wouldn’t understand

“I’m not explaining this very well.” Actually, you are, and I understand completely. I sympathise. It’s hard. It will be alright in the end.

“You wouldn’t understand” because the situation is very complex. There are all these conflicting and confusing signals. To make you understand, I would need to explain what all those signals mean to me, and why, which is impossible. I would need to explain four, or fifty, years of history. And you would need to see these things in exactly the same way as I do, or you would show that you didn’t understand. All of it is important.

“You wouldn’t understand” because at my moment of greatest pathos I fear you will scoff.

“You wouldn’t understand” because I want you to make it all better for me. I want you to see a way through the thicket of my doubts which will make me happy, something I can do which will improve things, and while you might propose something I probably will not like it or think it will work.

I fear you will tell me to stop worrying about it.

I am miserable because I am hopeless yet still scrabbling round for scraps of hope. I am on edge, alert because at any moment what I long for might happen, though as time wears on it becomes less likely.

I am more or less grown out of thinking, if only I had done something different the position would be different now. To do something different I would have needed to be a different person, and I cannot know that any alternative would have worked. Probably it would not have made a difference.

“You wouldn’t understand” because I don’t understand myself, don’t know what to do or think, and therefore no-one could.

Really, I do understand. I see how difficult this is for you. I see how strongly you feel. I know how passionately you hate not knowing. I see how hurt and angry you are, how frustrated and yearning. It is a difficult situation. It is a wound, but wounds heal.

 ♥♥♥

I am talking to myself. I am changing my internal dialogue from “stop being so silly” or “shut up shut up shut up” because they stopped working; I could suppress feelings for so long and no longer. I was frustrated and incomprehending seeing the strength of my feelings, and I am less incomprehending. My frustration is reducing as I work out better ways to deal with them. “This too will pass” is a useful lesson.

Well, “Shut up” or “you are being completely unreasonable” does not work. I do not motivate myself to move on to something else. This is the thing on my mind. I would rather not be feeling this hurt, but I do. Possibly, I will have to just sit it out. I will stay inside until the misery lightens a bit.

-Can you do something to take your mind off it?

No. Or, I can’t think of anything. “I tried that, and it didn’t work.” It is as if the emotional self is extremely suspicious of anything which might “make it better”, reduce the strength of the feeling, and will not tolerate it, and however sympathetic the rational self is it wants to stop feeling so strongly and move on. I am at an impasse. At least I know the feeling is there.

Other people? I can sympathise in the sense of seeing a reaction is understandable, but not sufficiently to predict them. This disappoints me.

Gender non-conforming

What does “gender non-conforming” mean to you? To me it’s quite clear: there are gender stereotypes, most people more or less fit them, gender non-conforming means you don’t and you don’t want to pretend that you do. Gender-punk I quite like: the person who told me about it is clearly AMAB, and wears skirts in public without breast forms or make-up. Cross-dressers and trans women genderally try to look like women,  but this person chooses the pronoun “they” and doesn’t, though their height might make it difficult. They mix it up, choose what they like. The clothes and mannerisms are symbols, which indicate an underlying personality, and they break expectations. I usually see them in skirts which don’t look feminine at all, just practical.

-Ooh look, a man in a skirt! shouted someone at them.
-Ooh look, a woman in trousers! they riposted.

So depending on how non-conforming, or how uncomfortable with gender stereotypes you were, there would be say 10% of women and 10% of men who were so far from the stereotype as to be gender non-conforming. That would include all lesbian, gay, bi or trans folks but a lot of others too, and we could all join in one big happy family because we had that in common, and advance our rights together.

Yeah.
No.

Some people think gender stereotypes matter, and they will be judged and punished for breaching them. We observe the bullying of non-conforming boys, we were bullied like that, we have an idea of masculinity which we don’t fit and it crucifies us. Some people are comfortable with a wide range of behaviour, some of which might seem to fit the gender stereotype and some not. And the stereotype itself is fuzzy- how rigid or restrictive is it, really?

I was chatting with a gay man about “gender diversity”. He agreed with my definition of gender diversity, and we agreed a woman we know might fit in a “gender diversity community” or a “queer” group. I don’t think she would agree. A feminist perspective is that women are oppressed- disrespected, treated as sex objects, disadvantaged because of their reproductive systems, as women. Then the gender stereotype is part of the oppression of women, and no-one fits it, not really. It is a series of demands and expectations, such as being the carer in all sorts of situations, which oppress every woman.

Though not all women are feminists in the same way, and some find feminism means they can choose those “feminine” roles- it is the right to choose, not the particular thing chosen, that matters. Then some are clearly gender conforming. It does not follow that those who are not will ever identify as gender non-conforming. Just as heavy drinkers think they are average drinkers, women particularly distant from the gender stereotype think all women are equally distant.

I don’t understand. I knew before I transitioned that even if I reverted, I needed to go through transition or I would be stuck in my desire for it. To live as a man I needed to transition to female. Does that make any sense at all to you? I don’t want to revert now, it would be too much trouble, yet I wish I could have avoided it. From this particular position, I don’t understand anyone else. I don’t understand the trans woman or trans man who talks of their gender identity, which looks to me like a verbal justification for a particular act, not an objective measurable thing. My identity is me, which formerly was “a trans woman” and is now “a feminine male”. I am a trans woman because I have transitioned and not reverted. As I see gender roles as important and limiting, I don’t understand anyone who breaches them without seeming to care.

For gender non-conformity to mean something we need an idea of what feminine gender is, and to believe that some women fit it. Many of those women I think are gender non-conforming deny there is a coherent concept of femininity, or that anyone fits it. Being gender non-conforming, they believe, makes them feminist, not part of some queer subculture.

So it is possible to identify as gender non-conforming, to feel something in common with other GNC people and find some value and self-understanding in the term, but not possible to define it or apply it to anyone who does not apply it to themself.

Hold the tension

Jung to the rescue, perhaps. It is better to know my feelings, but ideally to know them without manifesting them physically, or at least the physical reaction might be a lump in the throat rather than bowing my head, pulling my shoulders forward and expressing deep distress on my face. Someone denying my feelings is the old threat, and I will not subject myself to that again.

I feared my feelings, so suppressed them, then they fought for attention. Do you react to a situation, or respond to it? Taking a moment to be aware of your conflicting feelings may be the answer. I am angry with someone, yet frightened of displeasing them. Listen to the feelings, to be aware of their conflicting voices. Jung called this holding the tension.

I took this from this article, which I have read several times and am now considering with suspicion. Andrea Mathews writes, if we can stand in the middle of all these emotions and just listen and listen until we can clarify one genuine message, then we are learning to hear the voice of the authentic self… responding from authenticity gives us peace. The authentic bit pulls all the voices together into one single genuine effort. Many needs are clamouring, hurts from days or years before, and if we can hear them without judging them as bad or stupid,

(what might be the “I” hearing but not judging other parts? The frontal lobe?)

we will find what need they would assuage.

Mathews gives a feminine perspective. How the other receives our authenticity is not up to us. The masculine perspective is that my feelings are the right feelings, and you should respond just the way I do. So I express my feelings with face, voice and body language, so that we are all pulling in the direction I decide. This can be a problem if the other is free from such influences. Mathews would free me. I might go along, because of external threat, but at least I would know that.

In the same way, Mathews says boundaries are for me, and not for other people: not to prevent others encroaching, but to know what I can and cannot do. I can’t stop another encroaching on my space, only see what I can do in response to that. I find my authentic feeling, make a decision, and decide (boundary) I will not be guilt-tripped out of it. I can fail to co-operate with someone, but not bend them to my will.

Actually, sometimes people bend to others’ wills. At least they might be persuaded. And, there are things worth trying which have no certainty of success. But we cannot change other people, and perhaps we just have to get out of their way, as Mathews recommends.

Stop being good, she says. As children we were taught socially acceptable behaviour, contrary to our own feelings, was good- expressing love or contrition when we felt the opposite, say. That was enforced by withdrawal of affection, which set up a need in us to be worthy of affection. That was one of my first lies I saw-

I lie to myself because I need to see myself as a good person.

I imagine myself to be good, so that I can imagine I am worthy, so I can imagine I will survive. It is all imaginary, concerned with managing my internal sense of safety rather than anything in the real world. I am weaning myself off that, though it takes time. Rather, she enjoins, be authentic: notice how what you perceive makes you feel, and make choices accordingly.

Here is a list of Andrea Mathews’ blog posts on “The search for the authentic self”.

Truth is experience

He was angry, and I sympathise. However, as he got drunker, he swore more, and though he continually apologised for doing so in front of “ladies”, our presence did not restrain him. Then he told me that he could swear in front of me, as I was “in between”. I don’t really like people joking like that, though I feel I am entitled to. Earlier, I had looked at him and said “You know what I do is catching, don’t you?” and evoked a loud HAHAHAHAHAHA from a woman there.

The music round. Which Billie Holliday song, released in 1937, is this? I guessed, based on what Billie Holliday songs I would expect people to have heard of, and the first chords confirmed it. I don’t know what happened next. Or I do, but past and present denials of it attack my confidence.

I needed to take a moment, because of the horror. At any rate, I pushed my seat back and bowed down. Black people were being murdered, and their bodies displayed to traumatise and cow other black people, and make white people complicit. So someone wrote a poem, and she turned it into a song, shoving the abomination in our faces. It is deeply moving. I am not entirely sure what happened before I pushed my seat back, it happened so quickly, but it was something like me expressing that sense of being moved and him ridiculing that. So I pushed my seat back, and bowed down, making an unequivocal signal of Being Moved. Then my inner doubts started a well-worn refrain about me making a fuss, just performing, not really feeling like that.

I did feel like that. It seems that it reassures people in some way if we feel alike. Then we know we are of the same tribe. Why else would we all attempt to control each others’ feelings so much? “Don’t cry.” Or, horror has a particular use as a feeling, perhaps, to avert us from some actual threat now and not- but then, we tell each other stories to arouse feelings in each other-

Not a word is wasted in The Good Fight. In 2/12, Diane Lockhart says that the world has gone mad, but if she can keep her own corner of it, her law firm, sane, then insanity has not won. The liberal says to the conservative ICE agent, how much federal money have you spent on one deportation? He ripostes that he is asserting the primacy of federal law over state’s rights. The world is upside down. They are fighting, they are scrapping like rats in a sack, and law is a set of rules we use to achieve our goals. Well, of course it is, but most people think it has something to do with justice, and that the purpose imagined for a particular rule by the legislator should affect how it may be used. The Good Fight would meet that idea with a hollow laugh. Then using the Trump-appointed judge’s ignorance of the law against him by naming a kind of motion he has not heard of is just another tactic. That judge is nauseating. He has babyish good looks and charm which he uses in a completely self-centred way, and is stupid. Monsters arise.

I loved that line about doing what she can, not for the whole world but just part of it, and after watching it I don’t want to go outside.

Last night, I asserted my feelings to others: when my feelings were derided I doubled down. I suppose that ideally I would not need others to affirm my feelings, but possibly it is just being human to need that. Super-human may take me some time. Or I could call it doing teenage, acting out rather than just going along with others, and Adult would be feeling authentically, seeing the others’ response, and doing what I could best do in that moment to keep my world sane.

I wish I could see my sensitivity as a strength, and perhaps it will be if I ever complete teenage. I am over fifty, but only started teenage in my thirties. Now I assert, truth is experience. I hear even the first chords of Strange Fruit. I feel the horror of displaying corpses to create racial terror. My truth is not some objective understanding of what is going on in the world but myself, my response, my perceptions and the feelings aroused in me.

Knowing my feelings

-How are you?
-I don’t know.

No, really, I don’t. This is the real question, not the form answered by “Fine, thanks,” and I don’t know the answer to it. I can only pay my gas bill by withdrawing from savings, which I can’t do indefinitely. And I was not even thinking of looking for work.

-How do you feel when you notice that?

Again I don’t know, but where I go is into puzzling things out. All these long blog posts about trans issues. I could stop blogging quite so much and decide that finding a way to support myself was the most important thing for me. I listen to my voice changing as I tell you that.

I get a lot of self-respect from writing, and little pings of dopamine from looking at my blog statistics- how many posts have had over sixty or over a hundred views, say- and yet there are variable rewards from considering stats quite so often, which makes them more addictive. I chase the pings of dopamine, which is well-dodgy.

Then on work- the jobcentre could take away all my income, probably not before October but possibly thereafter.

I don’t know. Which is worse? Writing job application forms and getting interviews and not getting the job or writing job application forms and not getting the interview.

-So the writing helps you to feel useful. Purposeful.
-It gives me an interest. Thinking things through, expressing things. As indeed do some Labour party activities.

Sometimes things become too problematic and I stop doing them. Like job applications. After this conversation, I have put in an application, as before finishing it about eleven pm before the closing date, not doing it well. That was how I psyched myself up to completing it. I hated it. Essential requirements- well, not really, possibly at a stretch… Probably, if I’d nerved myself to do it earlier, then read it over later to tighten it up, I would have sent in something better.

And it was a struggle to do it. I hated every moment of it, kept giving up on it and coming back to it, and this was after Yearly Meeting where I got lots and lots of affirmation. And before I did it I sought and got more affirmation.

So, how was I? So angry, despairing and terrified that I had managed to be unconscious of these feelings, but that required mindless distractions. This will do no good, I thought. This is pointless. And it is horrible, because I expend this effort pointlessly. And I hate saying I am this good, I have done this, and getting judged on it and found wanting. Yes, yes, they have someone else for the job and probably I could have been appointed if they did not have this better candidate. I still feel not good enough.

In other news, all that water trickling down the light fitting- we know where it’s coming from. At last, weeks after I reported the problem, the man came to repair the gutters. He did so badly, such that the point above the leak is lower than the joint to the down-pipe, but at least there is no gap in the gutter. And I was right- the hole in the gutter was why more water was coming in.

It’s coming in through the wall of the upper storey. The landlord was right that it was not coming in through the flat roof, which is properly sealed. Neither he nor I made the obvious deduction that it’s coming through the wall, nor did the agent, and I feel they have a lot more experience of property so have less excuse. Then another man went up on the flat roof and knocked on the wall, which sounded thin and hollow. There’s a crack above the hollow bit. Obvious really, once it’s pointed out to you.

So many irritations! Water ingress, landlord stupidity-

not enough money

and the only way out getting a job which I can’t see how I can get. So I seek out any distraction, and feel wretched.